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 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:
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?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Stitch and Donald on Disney Infinity

Characters with poor impulse control mix it up in a video game:

Through yet another marvel of internal marketing, our kids have become convinced that Stitch and Donald are the funniest, most wonderful characters that can be played on Disney Infinity.  We would have to purchase them, of course, because we do not own them yet.  I do wonder what exciting new character will be suddenly shown to be desirable when the system senses that we have bought these two?

When I put Stitch and Donald together, the results were a bit darker than I intended... and a bit negative for Quaker second grade lunch....

I was thinking that I wanted to make their heads large, and wouldn't it be nice to stack them instead of placing them side by side? and wouldn't it be clean formally to surround Donald's head with the blue both of his clothes and of Stitch's fur?

Somehow my half-conscious/ half-baked compositional planning resulted in strangulation.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Threesome

Not one of my better efforts in the canines in costumes genre, but it was trying to be a slightly less disturbing rendition of the Regular Show's three costumed Thanksgiving thugs. They steal the last frozen turkey and explode a car during a high speed chase.

These dogs just look like they are having a tiresome day.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Sea Otter Pup Rides a Wild Turkey

(I was mistaken yesterday, and there was in fact one more napkin-requiring school lunch this week before fall break.)

My younger son  told me last night that not one person in his class thought yesterday's "Turkeysaurus Rex" napkin was funny, and that everyone said it was just weird.  He did agree nonetheless that maybe we could try something else on the turkey long as there was also a Sea Otter involved. 

I am always happy to draw something at least tangentially related to actual curriculum rather than trademarked characters that suggest that my kids watch too much television.  I don't, however,  get requests for school subject matter very often. In my younger son's case, I have to reach back to 2012, when he was studying Owls to come up with a series of school related napkins. (see the poorly photographed Owl napkins here)

Annoying mother that I am, I still frequently suggest school related napkins.  My kids' teachers always make a point to give me lots of positive reinforcement when my son shows up with a napkin that is about an edifying school topic. I am perhaps more responsive than my sons to praise from school authority figures.

Early on in the napkin project, my older son's Pre-K teacher took a hard line.  She told us that she was not going to read the text to him on any napkin unless the image was related to curriculum or at least portraying some other wholesome topic like real animals or plants: No Star Wars characters, even if Luke and Darth Vader were hugging and proclaiming the virtues of Quaker non violent conflict resolution.   This restriction of course only increased my son's determination that the napkins should havenothing to do with school. As it turned out, he was surreptitiously reading to himself, so he did not need her help with the text anyway. 

Our younger child's teachers have been a bit more relaxed, and perhaps, as a result, he is less of a pop culture crusader

I had to go with a baby Otter for today's image, since it seemed too improbable to put a 70 pound, four foot tall adult animal on the back of a Turkey....unlike a pup, which is completely plausible astride a Wild Turkey....

(There is a now famous rescued Sea Otter Pup at the Shed Aquarium in Chicago which can be seen at great length online.  for instance:Sea Otter pup 681)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Turkeysaurus Rex with Pilgrim for Thanksgiving

It's an appallingly short school week because of "Fall Break."  At our kids' progressive Quaker school, we do not refer to the holiday as "Thanksgiving" in the same spirit as we use "Indigenous Peoples' Day" in place of "Columbus Day."  Since today is the single full day of school before this unnamed day of eating that overlooks the oppression of many people and fowl, it was the only option for a themed napkin to go to school.

As I am often reminded by my sons that birds in general, and chickens in particular, are modern day dinosaurs, I thought a giant Wild Turkey/ Tyrannosaurus Rex mash-up might be in order.  There have been a great many videos posted online of "wild turkey attacks" (here's a link to a very recent Washington Post article entitled "Great Moments in Wild Turkey Attacks" in case you doubt my expertise on this topic) So it seems that Wild Turkeys might in fact have the disposition of a large predator when given the opportunity. 

My sons agreed that it seemed appropriate that the Turkey have the upper hand at least for today.

A few other Thanksgiving themed napkins from years past can be seen at this link.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Fyrnock from Star Wars Rebels

One of the "Angry Toothlesses."
These critters have appeared in a couple recent episodes of "Star Wars Rebels."

I will have to admit that I did not pay very close attention to those episodes.  While we watched the last one earlier this week, I was busy picking through Ansel's hair, trying to determine whether he really had lice again, or was just psychosomatically itchy.

Trying to figure out what the "Fyrnocks" were called and actually looked like presented an extra challenge last night that I did not appreciate. (I was still exhausted from washing or bagging everything that the kids' hair might have touched during the last couple of weeks.)  Usually it is quite easy to quickly find out the name and more than you possibly need to know about any creature in the Star Wars universe.  I speak from ample experience.  There was, however, a bit of a dearth of info and images on the topic of Fyrnocks.

Archer and Ansel had been calling them "Angry Toothlesses" for their resemblance to the Dreamworks dragon character. This seems to be an apt name as Ezra, the boy character in "Rebels," has some sort of control over them not entirely unlike Hiccup's relationship with Toothless.

I briefly considered drawing the two boys and the two dragonish creatures.... but after all the laundry, I felt fortunate to just draw some teeth and glowing eyes.

And, no, the kids don't have lice....any more....I hope....

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Werewolf from "Jinx's Magic"

"I am expending considerable effort on not eating you."

This line spoken by Malthus the werewolf is one of my favorites so far in Sage Blackwood's "Jinx's Magic."

We've been working our way through this sequel to "Jinx" at bedtime, on train rides, and during times when the electronic device privileges have been suspended due to crappy behavior.

The Jinx series is one of the few occasions when I feel like I am reading a book to my sons that I would have really enjoyed reading myself at their age.  My sons almost always prefer graphic novels and comic books, and mostly those featuring high tech weaponry.  While I have been happy to be immersed in graphic storytelling (and violence!) over the last few years, it was not something that I saw much of during my own childhood.  The graphic novel category didn't exist, and I don't think regularly reading comics even occurred to me as a possibility.

I was an extremely enthusiastic reader as a kid, and I'll admit to a little nagging disappointment that I have not been able to successfully share any of my early, admittedly girly, favorites with my sons.  Obviously the Laura Ingalls Wilder series was a non-starter destined for hysterical derision. The same goes for the likes of "The Secret Garden" and "A Little Princess."  And I couldn't even get traction with the Narnia Series, or "The Last of the Very Great Whangdoodles" (written by Julie Andrews herself, although no one has the slightest interest in Mary Poppins around here)

At any rate, I am enjoying Ms. Blackwood's books even now in my present geriatric condition, and have had to restrain myself on a couple occasions from reading ahead on my own.  It's not so much that I think that I am too mature to be reading a book theoretically written for  children....(for more insightful thoughts on this topic, see Sarah Burnes' thoughtful essay on adults and YA literature in the Paris Review here)

I just don't have much time to be reading for pleasure when my sons aren't around... because, you know, I have to draw on these napkins..... 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sea Otter with Sonic Screwdriver

I wonder how much overlap there is between the "fandoms" of Doctor Who and Sea Otters?

Eager to share his trove of Sea Otter knowledge, Ansel was telling us yesterday about how they use stones to  hammer shells off undersea rocks and open up oysters and abalones. They are some of the few tool using mammals, and the only marine mammals besides dolphins.

Since these Otters can use tools, I thought, why not provide the ultimate tool?  Maybe the problem was that Ansel did not give me a request last night, and I was deluding myself that the green glow of the sonic screwdriver reflected off the water was going to be fun to draw?

When I showed the napkin to Ansel this morning, he rolled his eyes and said, "That will do."
Not a very successful crossover, apparently.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Sea Otter with Teddy Bear

Continuing to work on his 2nd grade research paper on Sea Otters, Ansel told me that people call them "The Teddy Bears of the sea."

In a sleep deprived haze last night, I debated the visual possibilities of that statement:  Teddy bears swimming in the ocean (surfing! scuba diving!) or Sea Otters reclining indoors on beds or having tea parties.  The options seemed mostly too insipid. 

In the end, as usual, I took the path of least resistance and just put the two together. Speaking of insipidity, I feel like I have seen a lot of images online of animals snuggling with teddy bears.  "Rat with teddy bear" autofills on Google above even "rat with tumor." There are endless images of dogs and cats clutching plushes. We like our online animals cute, and even better, cuddling an unrealistic stuffed animal. 

And speaking of unrealistic, Ansel mentioned several times how great it would be to have a sea otter as a pet....If only we had  room for an animal that is 4 to 5 feet long and between 70 and 90 pounds, plus a large salt water pool well stocked with tasty benthic invertebrates.

The Sea Otter on today's napkin is definitely not snuggling his teddy, and seems mostly annoyed by the lack of realism in the situation.

Monday, November 17, 2014

C3PO Hails a Cyberman from "Doctor Who"

Which metal suited guy is more cool?
Ansel has recently been convinced of the appeal of both Star Wars and Doctor Who.

Now that "geek" culture has more or less completely triumphed over the mainstream, I find myself somewhat confused by just what is supposed to be cool...or perhaps I am uncertain if there is anything that is not supposed to be cool.

While I am well aware that the Doctor predates Star Wars by over a decade, from the perspective of my own adolescence and personal birth of the concept of the cool, they are about the same vintage. 

I was an early and avid reader of science fiction.  By high school, I had more or less exhausted the back catalog of the "Science Fiction Book of the Month Club." ( I remember my mother attempting to convince a telemarketer for the club to stop harassing me by telling him that I had died.)  I was also a moderate fan of the first two Star Wars movies, although teenaged authority that I was, I would have been pleased to inform you that I did not consider those movies  to be "real" science fiction.

Perhaps I might have had a tiny bit of geek cred back in the 1980's... If there had been such a thing at my high school at the time.  I  don't think, however, that my interest in science fiction had any remote relationship with coolness, and in fact I was rather circumspect about admitting my enthusiasm for Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke.

I was aware of Doctor Who back in the 1980's, but I don't think I considered the show to fall into the legitimate science fiction category either. And I don't remember ever watching an episode.

It was just too uncool even for teenaged me.

My apologies to Whovians everywhere... and to my sons, but I am pretty sure my kids would not make it through a "Classic" episode themselves.

I am not saying that I share the opinions of my younger self, on Doctor Who, or anything else...but...
when I was a kid, the Doctor looked like this:

and the Cybermen looked like this:

While they may be undecided on the 12th Doctor, Peter Capaldi, my sons are pretty convinced of the coolness of Matt Smith.  His bow tie and ADD like arm flapping and hyperactivity just make him all the more compelling.

And the current Cybermen are definitely cool.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Sea Otter with Crab for Lunch

Ansel is pretty excited about his research project on Sea Otters,  Thus, we have a rare napkin free of trademarked character infringement, featuring a real animal in a real environment without lasers or a jet pack.

Did you know that Sea Otters can weigh up to 90 lbs? And that they have something between 26,000 and 165,000 hairs per square centimeter of skin, yet they never have to comb it because it never gets tangled?

At least that is what Ansel tells me.

The crab is not particularly accurate.  Around midnight last night, I realized I was making it cooked crab color.  There are crabs with shells in that color range, but I cannot say if they are on the menu for this sort of sea otter.  I just thought it would be nice if the crab popped out from the background...or maybe I wasn't really thinking and was just drawing a cooked crab?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Cardboard Friend Arrives for Lunch

 Because all the good stuff in life can now be delivered to your house in a cardboard box....right?

Yesterday morning, as I was pedaling them to school, the boys were discussing "Cardboard Friend" and how we should purchase one.

Cardboard in general has always been a popular yet problematic topic at our house.  During our early frugal and overachieving parenting days, (in other words, when we only had one child), we used to make out of cardboard whatever toy Archer thought he really needed to have.  We constructed a pirate ship, a castle, Star Wars vehicles, power tools, and my husband's special contribution, a rolling lawnmower. In the spirit of full disclosure, these items were most often made out of Fresh Direct Boxes, which were arriving at our house with alarming frequency, often containing only one loaf of bread, or two artisanal pickles. We did our best  to convince ourselves and anyone else who would listen that we were doing something positive with our first world problem of having too many boxes.

At the time, I fantasized that I was teaching Archer important values: "Why should we buy this cheap plastic toy that you think you want when we can work together to create a more interesting one for free?"  Those who have kids, or really anyone who can remember being a child, knows what the flaw in this edifying line of reasoning is.  Beyond that, what I was really doing was training a demanding junior art director: "No Mom, the castle should have three towers and a working drawbridge!" A child who who believed that his parents should spend huge amounts of time building things to his specifications.  And when you are talking to a three or four year old, and you say "Let's make a lawn mower!" what you really mean is "I will make this for you while you whine endlessly about how it is taking too long."

We have continued to try build things out of cardboard in my studio over the last few years, so Archer and Ansel decided that "we" should make a Cardboard Friend ourselves.

I did a little bit of research last night and, ugh, learned more than I care to detail here. To be brief: there was a kid character kid dressed as a cardboard robot called "Danbo" in a popular Japanese manga back in 2007.  This box robot was later reproduced as a toy and was disseminated to broad internet fame in the following years.  There are Amazon and 7-11 logo box versions and thousand upon thousands of "fan art" photographs of these cute boxbots in every possible locale engaged in every possible activity.  If you are interested in the details, or wish to become one of the over 144,000 fans of Danbo on facebook, "Know Your Meme" has an informative "danbo" page.  Or you can buy one at Amazon, with the logo on it for only $19.95.

Archer tells me that he likes the idea of Cardboard Friend as a "being invested with mystical power." Yes, those were his exact words.  I have some mixed feelings about the ubiquity of cardboard in our lives, and for the moment, I am going to try to resist buying a Cardboard Friend or even making one of our own.

But I did draw one popping out of Ansel's lunch bag.

Below some of the cardboard building at our house 2006-2013.  And no, I don't think I can find a picture of that spectacular lawnmower.

...But wait... several hours later, a photo of the famed lawn mower has been found:
And here's one of the castle  because I clearly cannot stop myself:

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The cast of Goat Simulator: Giraffe, Penguin & Goat

"You no longer have to fantasize about being a goat."

Like many other of my sons' interests, I am not sure that I understand Goat Simulator.
In addition to the tagline above, the official website offers the following disclaimer:

"Goat Simulator is a small, broken and stupid game. It was made in a couple of weeks so don’t expect a game in the size and scope of GTA with goats. In fact, you’re better off not expecting anything at all actually. To be completely honest, it would be best if you’d spend your $10 on a hula hoop, a pile of bricks, or maybe a real-life goat."

One can see how that sort of game would be irresistible.  You can play as the three above animals... or at least as their destructive, dysfunctional, pseudo-avatars.  I think it is safe to say that no virtual goats are harmed during the playing of the game.  I discovered this morning that there is also the option to play as a whale.

I definitely regret not including that on the napkin.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Perry, Groot and Rocket:

Perry the Platypus from "Phineas and Ferb" usurps Rocket's shoulder spot.
Maybe this Disney corporate crossover thing might lead to some conflict?.

The Disney Infinity game got us talking about the potential for ridiculous team-ups from the greatly expanded Disney roster. (Or ridiculous death matches, if we are not thinking about a napkin for a Quaker student lunch...)  Ansel did not appreciate any of my suggestions along the lines of "Jiminy Cricket and Darth Vader" ("How do you expect to be a real boy if you don't listen to your conscience?") or "Bambi Meets the Hulk".... ("Hulk smash girly deer!")

He accepted the Perry, Groot and Rocket image this morning.  Perhaps he was just relieved that I had not drawn something like "Snow White visits Jabba the Hut."

Monday, November 10, 2014

Rocket Raccoon Lifts the Winter Soldier

Last week Ansel finally redeemed multiple rewards that he had earned this fall (known as bribes in less indulgent circles) and picked out the Disney Infinity game.  He was relatively unenthusiastic about Skylanders, another console-plus-endlessly-expensive-figurines style game.  But Disney Infinity won him over with the possibility of playing as the Guardians of the Galaxy and other Marvel people as well as other Disney and Pixar characters.

Don't know about you, but the pop culture juggernaut of Disney/Marvel/Pixar/Star Wars is making the whole idea of crossovers oddly less interesting for me.  My sons claim to agree, but I am pretty sure that they do not have the same reservations about corporate monoliths that I do. Certainly the "Phineas and Ferb"and  "Star Wars" episode was nicely done.  Ansel was quite excited to see the "Ultimate Spider-Man" and "Jessie" Halloween episode. (If you are unfamiliar with "Jessie," please don't ask) But once everything is possible and Sleeping Beauty can have a light saber battle with Darth Vader...Well, let's just say that just because it can happen, doesn't always mean that it should...Unless we are talking about drawings on napkins, of course.  Ha.

At any rate, We bought the Infinity Marvel starter set and a couple Guardians characters....because... how could we possibly not have Star Lord and Rocket?  I will admit that I don't really understand the logic of the game at the moment- i.e., which character can play in which world, and who else might appear in that world.

But the configuration of characters that we have somehow makes it possible for the person who is playing as Rocket to snatch up the Winter Soldier- a character we don't own, who just seems to wander aimlessly around the set- and carry him around like a piece of lumber...and then toss him off the edge of the world...again, and again, and again.

I am not sure why the Winter Soldier character seems OK with this, or what is gained by the operation, but my sons certainly seem to enjoy doing it.

Of course Rocket looks like the below in the actual game, so please forgive my...would we call it "artistic license?" and/or just sloppy rendering of his costume?

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Simon and Cats from "Jinx"

Ansel enjoyed reading Sage Blackwood's novel "Jinx," and particularly seemed to like the idea of living with a wizard and his 27 cats.

Ansel was concerned that the bottled wizard on this napkin would be mistaken for Jesus because he was robed and barefoot. I told him that I wasn't too worried as you don't see too many depictions of Jesus wearing purple and standing inside a bottle. Nonetheless, as the drawing progressed, I did feel the need to put a Lord of the Rings style hat on him to suggest something wizardly rather than biblical.  Ansel told me later that he was embarrassed by the drawing because Simon looked like "Jesus in a sunhat."

We have ordered the second and third books in the series. I am afraid that I will have to work on both my wizard and glass bottle drawing skills.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Chopper and Echo

Cute sentient robots from "Star Wars Rebels" and "Earth to Echo" meet cute.

"Earth to Echo" was recently released to DVD and on demand, so Ansel insisted that we had to watch it again. 
Very reminiscent of "E.T.," the movie combines two of Ansel's favorite things, an insipidly cute alien, and kids acting on their own, completely free of adult supervision. 

Three boys discover "Echo" out in the scrub and spend an entire night helping the little extraterrestrial find the parts he needs to repair himself and reassemble his spaceship. They lie to their rather oblivious parents, ride their bicycles on highways in the dark, break into various commercial and residential locations to help Echo find parts, and tangle with a potentially evil adult wearing an orange safety vest who seems to know something about what is going on. As the kids and alien finally triumph in the morning and a huge spaceship assembles itself in the sky over their suburban subdivision, one of the kids exclaims proudly, "We did this!" 

Aside from the distractingly jittery hand-held camera work- supposedly one of the kids is shooting the night's events on video- "Earth to Echo" is a fairly entertaining, kid friendly story. I was able to sit through it two times without too much discomfort.

Given my role as the mother of two boys who would love to have a darling alien provide them with an excuse for subterfuge and misdemeanors, however, I view the ending with a somewhat jaundiced eye.  I have to wonder if after making his kid-enabled escape, Echo might be able to return with a fleet of space ships carrying alien overlords bent on enslaving the human race, or sucking all the salt out of the earth's oceans, or blowing up our solar system to make way for an intergalactic highway...

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy Selfie

I had to put Rocket in the front as  I've lately had much more practice drawing raccoons than people, (green skinned or otherwise) and I think it shows.

Ansel had requested that I include all members of the Guardians on this one, which really exceeded my powers of plausible character arrangement. Apparently Ansel wanted to ask a classmate whether she liked the movie or not, and wanted a visual aid to help prompt the conversation. This was a slightly unusual request as he is most often only interested in the Rocket or Star Lord characters.

When I asked Ansel what was so cool about Star Lord, he told me that he really liked the way that Star Lord's long coat flapped when he jumped. I certainly like that quality in a role model for my 7 year old son more than I like his unrealistic physique or his way with women.

I don't have to ask what he likes about the raccoon.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Raccoons Rocket and Rigby

What do talking raccoons do for fun?

Rocket Raccoon from "Guardians of the Galaxy" makes a proposal to Rigby from the "Regular Show."

Our sons enjoy these two characters far too much.

Friday, October 31, 2014

"Attack on Titan" Style Colossal Pumpkin Titan for Halloween

We've gone back to reading the "Attack on Titan" series again.  A couple of months ago, we had read all 13 books in the series, except Book 12 which was mysteriously missing.

Ansel and Archer had been waging a campaign for me to buy another copy of 12, because how could we go on without it?  I resisted, however, fairly certain that it was merely obscured by a pile of toys in their room and annoyed that they weren't actually making any attempt to look for it.

Perhaps you remember thinking that your mother always knew where to find missing objects during your childhood?  I am pretty lousy at keeping track of  my own stuff.  If my phone didn't ring, I would have had to give up long ago on having one at all.  However, the kids' missing things are usually easy to locate because not even the most minimal effort has been made to find them.

At any rate, Book 12 turned up pretty much where I thought it was, and now we are back to reading about teen drama and monstrous cannibalism by huge naked zombie like people.

I thought about drawing the kids in their Halloween costumes for today's napkin, but was overwhelmed by the task of reading Ansel's mind and portraying him in a way that would not mortify him.

So, giant pumpkin titan it is.

The kids' costumes are pictured below from a test drive last week.  Ansel is wearing a costume of his own design: an amalgam of Ezra Bridger from "Star Wars Rebels" (the helmet) and Star Lord from "Guardians of the Galaxy" (the coat) and an unnamed cool guy who would wear a Minecraft t-shirt and fingerless gloves.  Archer is Eren from "Attack on Titan" in his non titan, non pumpkin, form

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Halloween Candy Monster

(Because sugar is kind of like Satan....or maybe Satan just likes sugar?)

I was concerned that this one was going to be far too weird for school, but Ansel seemed unfazed this morning. I should not have worried. Ansel is of course the kid who wrote a Valentines Day poem at school last year about how Satan lives inside his heart.

He and Archer loved last year's "Summerween" episode of "Gravity Falls" during which the leftover Halloween candy that no one likes consolidates itself into a child-eating monster.

I was aiming for classic Halloween candy here: candy corn, Reeses, and those
orange and black wrapped peanut butter taffy things (Google tells me that they are actually called "Mary Jane Peanut Butter Kisses). Constructing the whole character out of those items exceeded my powers of innovation last night, however. I had to settle for red licorice skin, gum drops for color...and maybe that's a sugar skull helmet?  I really just wanted to draw candy corn teeth. The rest of it was not particularly well conceived.

He ended up resembling Mola Ram, the heart snatching baddie from "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom." Mola was fresh on my mind because the kids repurposed his LEGO headgear as a "dragonborn helmet" to make another minifigure look like a Skyrim character. This substitution was explained to me yesterday with great drama and detail.

This guy is not as good looking as Mr. Ram or the Dovahkiin (the horned helmet wearing guys in Skyrim).

But at least he is not an Ewok.