Sunday, May 31, 2015

Cafeteria Dogs

No cigars were smoked during the making of this picture.

The boys were photogenically arranged around a table in the cafeteria last Friday morning, playing with some Harry Potter cards. Earlier in the week, I had turned a bunch of snapshots into a napkin with kids with animal heads. So when I took a few pictures on Friday, my son told his friends that I was probably going to make a drawing of them with funny heads. That seemed like a request of a sort to me.  Later, he and I talked about replacing their heads with those of superheroes. Though I wouldn't rule that out for a future image, I have to admit that  I was daunted by the prospect of having to choose who got to be Batman.

After looking at the snapshots, the mother of the Golden Retriever on the napkin above emailed helpfully:
 "Dogs and cigars, Nina."
Once I had been reminded of poker playing dogs, I could not resist turning all the boys into various canines.

(Apparently the above "classic" 1903 painting of dogs playing poker by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge was part of a pair that sold for almost $600,000 back in 2005.)

I still had to make all those hard decisions about who was going to be which breed.  After lengthy consideration, my son picked out a Basenji for himself. I did the best that I could with the others.

I'm sure I will hear some criticism about my choices on Monday morning.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Velociraptor and T-Rex visit the Brooklyn Bridge

Jurassic Tourists.

Years ago, our sons bypassed the little boy dinosaur obsession phase. Skipping ahead to Star Wars and Batman, they neglected the parent pleasing business of learning all the names and attributes of Brachiosaurs and and Pterodactyls.

However, this doesn't mean they don't appreciate dinos, particularly if a movie trailer suggests that they might be running alongside Star Lord on a motorcycle. Our younger son insisted that we should prepare for the upcoming "Jurassic World" by watching the preceding Jurassic Park movies from the 90's.

Since the second grade class is taking a walking tour of the bridge today,  it seemed like a good venue for a T-Rex and a Raptor. I originally included the human tourists mostly for scale, not meaning to suggest that they were going to come to a bad end.  Near the end of the first "Jurassic Park," the humans are saved from the Velociraptors by the intervention of the Tyrannosaur, so maybe it is unlikely that the reptiles would be working together to catch dinner.

But it really doesn't look good for the humans, does it?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Elephant on Brooklyn Bridge

On May 17th, 1884, P.T. Barnum walked 21 elephants over the Brooklyn Bridge in a publicity stunt ostensibly designed to demonstrate the safety of the bridge. The bridge had already been open for a year at that point, but many people still had doubts about its stability.

This image was a late night, last ditch idea on my part. I had received a request from the boys that involved several Disney Infinity characters in a scenario that I could not quite get my mind around, much less draw... something about the "Gravity Falls" golf cart, and characters from "Big Hero Six" and "Guardians of the Galaxy" chasing and/or shooting at one another.

As challenging as I find the bridge to draw, it is easier than wrangling several characters with weapons and vehicles.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Ghost of John Roebling with Brooklyn Bridge

Our son did not get the role he wanted in his second grade play. he was hoping for the "Ferry Boat Driver."  His older brother had that part four years ago, and played it as "Sarcastic Scenery Chewing Ferry Boat Driver (who has had too much coffee and is waving the cup around in a troubling manner)" The younger brother was eager to reprise the comic role, but it did not make it into his class's version of the story.

Instead he has been cast as several characters: "Narrator of Scene 10," "Albert," "Michael," "Trustee #3,"  and, most importantly, "The Ghost of John Roebling." It looks like he might have the opportunity to follow in his older brother's footsteps and provide some comic relief after all.

Unfortunately, my drawing of Mr. Roebling's ghost is not at all humorous. I did put some effort  into getting a reasonable resemblance to his photo...and to making sure that he was a glowing ectoplasmic green.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Gummable with Chainsaws from Battle Bears Gold

Malicious Ursine Gelatin:

Battle Bears is our older son's latest gaming fixation. The game's website describes itself as "A funny and addictive class-based online multiplayer action shooter."

Of course, the appeal for our sons is the combination of cute and deadly present in murderousArcher gummy bears.

And, they are really looking forward to getting the rainbow chainsaws.

Emily Warren Roebling with Rooster on Brooklyn Bridge

Lady Engineer with Loud Male Poultry:

Our second grade son's class is finishing its study of the Brooklyn Bridge by writing and performing a 45 minute play about the drama surrounding the bridge's construction.

Slipped inside the story of the struggle to get the bridge completed is a feminist message. The bridge was originally designed and overseen by John Roebling. Early in the project, however, he succumbed to a foot crushing injury (compounded by the misguided belief that dipping it in water repeatedly would heal the wound). The bridge construction was then overseen by his son Washington.  When Washington became bedridden from caisson disease ("the bends") his wife Emily was grudgingly accepted as his representative and eventually as the de facto chief engineer. This was a rather remarkable feat for the time when it was commonly believed that women's minds were biologically incapable of comprehending complicated science and math.

On opening day, she was the first person to ride across the bridge. According to the second grade play script, she did this "with a rooster in her lap. It is a sign of victory." One source I stumbled upon in my 3 minutes of Googling said that the bird crowed constantly and did not appreciate the role it had to play in the spectacle.

It seemed to me ironic and sadly appropriate that Emily would carry a symbol of distracting chicken-brained male virility during her moment of triumph.

Alas, my portrait of Emily is not particularly accurate, but I did enjoy drawing the bird.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Cafeteria Animals

Who gets to be the fox?:
The cool guys hang out in the cafeteria before school.

Our younger son was using a photo app yesterday to put Panda face "stickers" on photos.  I gather there are several of these apps like Animal Face by Easy Tiger with various animals to choose from.

Before he went to bed last night, he had told me, "No more animal napkins, Mom! No more Pugs, and definitely no more Unicorns." But he did not have any requests for today's napkin, and sometimes, like my sons, I find negative direction hard to follow.

There are three classes within each grade at our kids' school, and this year all of my son's friends were assigned to one class without him.  He only gets to see them for the 15 or 20 minutes after we drop off his older brother and before the beginning of his school day.  This time is spent hanging out in the cafeteria and the surrounding hallways, getting away with as much rowdy and slightly nefarious behavior as possible.  On the somewhat rare occasions when the boys are sitting at a table together rather than running around or lurking in the bathroom, I try, often unsuccessfully, to get away with taking pictures of them.

Last night I used some of these snapshots as the basis for the animal head replacements in today's napkin.  I gave careful consideration to which animal head went with which boy... yes, these are the important thoughts that I am thinking late at night when I should be sleeping... My son's favorite animal is the Red Panda, so that was an obvious choice. The Fox went to a friend who is partial to wearing blingy metallic necklaces and gold high-tops. After the advent of Marvel's Rocket character,  a Raccoon face seemed like a safe bet for another friend.  And, well, someone had to be a Panda, so that went to a boy who had recently annoyed my son by spying on him in the bathroom.

I was pretty sure that this napkin would irritate my son, particularly after the "no more animals" injuction last night. I showed him a picture of it on my phone this morning so that he would be forewarned before he uncorked it at lunch. While he told me that he did not like the way I had drawn his hand, ("I don't ever hold my hand like that!") he was surprisingly pleased with the picture and proudly showed it to the other three boys. The usually photo-adverse kids even tried to recreate the picture at the cafeteria table.

There was, predictably, some griping about my animal choices. The Panda was not so pleased, and Raccoon boy told me that I had better draw him as a Fox next time.

Our very tolerant sitter got the Panda treatment

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Useful Unicorn

Our younger son recently rediscovered the book "101 Ways to Use a Unicorn" by Robb Pearlman and Dave Urban.

While it is perhaps not quite as sublime as its predecessor, "101 Ways to Kill a Zombie," our sons find this book pretty amusing. It's greatest appeal is of course that it includes some concepts that require adult explanation, like "Greek diner check spindle" or more importantly, "proctological instrument."

I cannot remember what number "Toilet paper roll holder" is in the book, but as it is featured on the cover of the book, it seemed like the obvious choice for a napkin.

I drew a much less utilitarian background and sweetened up the image in an effort to avoid offending the female unicorn enthusiasts in my son's classroom.

I have to admit that I myself was inordinately enthusiastic about unicorns when I was in second grade. Few things pleased me more at the time than using a purple marker to draw horses with wings or a horn. 

When I was my son's age and younger, I intensely coveted the fancy art markers that my parents used to color product design illustrations.   I recently had the idiotic realization that all this marker and napkin stuff is a perfect realization of the drawing fantasies I had when I was a small child. It's pretty pathetic, actually.

And minus the toilet paper, I would have been extremely pleased with this image four decades ago.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Pugbuster with Giant Pug

Iron Man's Hulkbuster Meets Battlepug:

As previously mentioned, Iron Man's super-sized anti-Hulk suit was one of my sons' favorite parts of the recent Avengers movie... And giant dogs are always good.

Over the weekend, our older son kept telling me I should draw this "Pugbuster."  The main appeal of the idea seemed to be the name. We were all unclear on whether "Pugbuster" meant that the Pug was wearing the armored suit, or whether the suit was designed to fight a Pug the size of of the Hulk (and the size of Battlepug, one of our web comic favorites)

I am indecisive, and I enjoy drawing Pug faces, so I said yes to both scenarios.

This morning, looking at the napkins, my older son told me that I blew it- that I should have made the giant Pug Hulk green. My younger son said that the suit should have had an armored Pug face on it. I explained to him that I had considered that, but after finishing cleaning up the kitchen at midnight, I chose the easier path of just drawing a dog's face.  Drawing the rest of the suit had been challenge enough. He said, "Oh it's not hard, you just draw an Iron Man helmet and make the yellow part look like a Pug's face.....

Maybe next time.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Fezzed Pug

Canine ode to hats produced in pseudo-sweatshop conditions,
Or, The dangers of owning large amounts of red felt.

Our older son had a ridiculous school assignment over the weekend to produce 25 fezzes for a 6th grade Middle Eastern Bazaar.

I will admit that he had mentioned the impending fez disaster late last week, but I repressed the information until early Sunday morning.  It was perhaps unfortunate that we just happened to have all of the prerequisite materials readily on hand.  Inexplicably, I had been storing a large bolt of red felt for well over a decade... maybe just waiting for this very moment. The really remarkable thing was that I was able to find this bolt of red felt in my chronically disorganized studio at 7:30 am on Sunday morning while in a sleepy and increasingly pissed off haze.

The bright spot in the fez fabrication horror was that my husband put his shoulder to the parenting wheel and slaved away in our family fez sweatshop for a large portion of Sunday, thus saving me from total maternal martyrdom.  He wrangled the sewing machine and exhibited notable restraint as our mostly ungrateful and unmotivated son whined endlessly about how the project was keeping him from playing video games.

Some 23 fezzes in, our son said something about how he had volunteered to make hats because he thought that would be easier than preparing "weird food." His father wailed in dismay, "You mean we could have just made some hummus??!! Next time, chose the food, kid!" I suspect my son's fez selection had more to do with Doctor Who than any assessment of the relative ease of the project. 

We ended up making 29 hats, because of course, both kids had to have one, and we couldn't seem to stop ourselves from making extras. I am afraid that I still have enough felt to make another hundred, but I'll just hold on to it for another decade or so.

And after a day spent wallowing in red felt, it seemed like the napkin had to have a fez also.
Perhaps it is the Doctor in his Pug form?

The Doctor in his Matt Smith form

The Doctor in his 2nd grade boy form

Friday, May 15, 2015

Robot Wolf

I had to work to meet a deadline yesterday afternoon, so the boys got to watch a pay-per-view movie instead of doing their homework and cleaning up the huge mess they had made in the living room.

The movie in question was a recent release, "Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts." As I fortuitously missed most of it, I will quote the imdb synopsis: "When Gotham is plagued by crime committed by an animal-themed villain squad composed of The Penguin, Silverback, Cheetah, Killer Croc and Man-Bat, Batman and other heroes band together to stop them." The movie also featured Nigthwing, Red Robin, the Flash and Green Arrow.

Besides the amazing laundry list of super heroes and villains all rendered in boxy hypermuscular forms, the movie also featured a weird series of robotic animals. I did see the last scene during which Batman was hanging out with the wolf/dog robot which he was calling Ace.  My younger son was very pleased by this canine robot even before it transformed into a motorcycle.

We had experienced a couple years worth of obsession with "Ace the Bat Hound" back in 2011 and 2012.  You can see our long history of Ace napkins at this link. (this is mostly good for appreciating how much my napkin drawing skill- and my phone camera- have improved over the years)

I was not able to get more than a very brief glance at this Ace robot in the movie last night, so I resorted to just making up a wolf robot. He has the same glowing red eyes at least.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Valiant Cerberus

Valiant the Pug, our kids' favorite character from Giants Beware and Dragons Beware gets the Cerberus treatment.
A three headed dog does appear in the book, along with gargoyles, a witch, and of course, dragons.
Valiant only has the one head in the graphic novels. but he is willing to take on dragons anyway.

Pug and Dragon

Bi-Species Team-up inspired by Dragons Beware:

Our kids were so enthusiastic to receive the sequel to "Giants Beware," by Rafael Rosado and Jorge Aguirre, that we had a bitter struggle over who was going to get to look at the book first. Things were looking so grim that, against my  better judgement, I broke out a second copy that I had purchased for a birthday gift for a friend.

Of course now we have two sticky copies.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Hulkbuster Armor with Broccoli

Don't Be Afraid of Green Things:
(But, I should have drawn the broccoli smaller.)

Iron Man's Hulkbuster suit might have been the most compelling thing in the recent Avengers movie as far as my sons were concerned. 

Endless debates of "Who would win the fight if..." are always good, and the Hulk vs. Iron Man scene in Ultron provides fodder for such a discussion.  The Hulk was presented as the most unstoppable of the Avengers in the first movie.  But in the second movie, it seems that when wearing more armor on top of armor, Iron Man might be able to tap the green guy out. 

I like the idea of layered suits of armor, like an endless series of Russian stacking dolls.

But no amount of armor excuses you from eating your green vegetables.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Bigfoot Poses on the Brooklyn Bridge

Sasquatch Selfie:

We seemed to be doing a series of cryptids on the bridge... But my son has asked me to stop the Brooklyn Bridge stuff, so sadly, I don't think there will be any Chupacabras or Loch Ness Monsters posed with New York landmarks.

I had thought the Sasquatch might be a safe bet as the last two library books my son brought home were both literally titled "Bigfoot." But after my son looked at this particular image, he told me solemnly that napkins like this were making him look weird in class. I think maybe we will focus on some video game characters or main stream superheroes in the near future.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mothers Day

Happy Mothers Day to my sons' Grandmother:
An image where they look sort of cute....and you can't hear what they are saying.


Friday, May 8, 2015

Dragon Perched on Brooklyn Bridge

"If dragons are real, can we have one, please?"

There are some periods of time when my sons are not obsessed with dragons. But, they never lose interest entirely. 

I am not sure how we got started on this recent surge in dragon enthusiasm, but suddenly the kids are carrying around "Dragonworld: Secrets of the Dragon Domain" by S.A. Caldwell again. Or more precisely, I am schlepping the giant book around in my backpack. Our younger son needed as it a visual aid this morning so that he could discuss with his friends what sort of dragon he is going to have as a pet/companion. But the book was much too precious to leave at school...or maybe just too heavy.

At any rate, it seemed like it was time for a dragon to appear on the Brooklyn Bridge. As usual I was not quite up to the perspectival challenge, but fire is always fun to draw.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Brooklyn Bridge with Giant Tentacles

The Kraken has been released.

I am not getting any better at drawing the Brooklyn Bridge.  The more I draw it, the more I throw up my hands in despair at the idea of getting the lines straight and the perspective correct.

I am not good at drawing straight lines. And then there is the napkin excuse: No line stays straight on the napkin surface anyway. (Or, maybe I am just plain lazy when it comes to this sort of thing.)

Tentacles, however, work nicely on napkins.
And I feel pretty motivated about drawing them.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Peregrine Falcon and Brooklyn Bridge

A rare napkin appearance of a realistic animal.

My son's 2nd grade class is studying the Brooklyn Bridge until the end of this school year.
In my continuing effort to draw something slightly related to school curriculum...yet still cool enough to impress 8 year olds, I tried a real animal.

I somehow tripped over the information that Peregrine Falcons nest on top of several of the bridges here in NYC. It is unclear to me whether falcons live on the Brooklyn Bridge itself. There are "falcon cams" on several other area bridges. (Here's a link to the NYC government page for Peregrine news)

I am pretty sure, however, that a Peregrine might fly past the bridge, so I went with that concept.  Drawing complicated rectilinear structures in perspective is definitely not my strong suit, so I tried to cover as much of the bridge as possible with the non rectangular bird.

I tagged along as a parent chaperone yesterday morning when my son's class walked to a nearby park with bridge views  and spent an hour sketching the Brooklyn Bridge. I tried unsuccessfully to draw the scene along with the kids. My son sat next me, complaining that his drawing was not as good as mine.

First of all, I want to record here for internet posterity: Kid, your drawing is much better.

He should not, of course, be comparing his drawings with mine anyway, and I feel like a lousy parent when he does. I do have memories of having similar conversations with my own parents. And I also remember not believing them when they told me that they liked my drawings better.  Sadly, I now  understand all too well that advancing age and training does not necessarily improve one's draftsmanship.

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Clumsy Ninja Takes on Ultron

What level does the Clumsy Ninja need to achieve in order to take on Ultron?

Of course we had to see the new Avengers movie "The Age of Ultron" when it opened last weekend. I observed the usual family movie viewing phenomenon where the kids' attention tended to wander during any scene with dialogue, and conversely, I found it hard to pay attention during the battle sequences.

"Ultron" has some nice light interpersonal moments like the scene when all the super-powered boys tease each other about who can pick up Thor's hammer. But the movie is mostly devoted to complex digital orchestrations of objects and bodies flying through space and crashing into one another and the surrounding architecture....And why would you be there to see an Avengers movie anyway if not for that?

It is remarkable what can be done with millions of dollars of CGI...But it all looks like a video game to me. To which my sons would say, "So what?"  Or, more likely, "Yes!!"

While we are on the topic on digital animation in video games: the kids are still enthusiastically working on "Clumsy Ninja." The game features some subtle and realistic interaction with the ninja character which is not just about running around whacking things. Despite their diligence, however, the kids have only managed to advance their ninjas to level 21 out of 99.

They're definitely going to have to make a lot of progress before the ninjas are ready for Ultron.

SIth Lord from Star Wars Trailer Offers a Sandwich for Lunch

Bad Guys Eat Processed Meat and Gluten:
Happy "May the Fourth Be With You" (Star Wars) Day.

After several years of ambivalence about the Star Wars universe, my sons are getting pretty interested in the new helmet-wearing bad guy. He appears briefly in both of the trailers for the upcoming movie.

There is apparently some controversy in the Star Wars geek realm over whether this hooded/masked baddie might be Darth Revan. This Revan person hails from a popular video game "Knights of the Old Republic" and supposedly lived almost 4000 years before the events of the Star Wars movies.... (That's the year 3994 BBY in Star Wars speak, as in 3994 years Before the Battle of Yavin. Really.) One would have to theorize that the fellow has been preserved for thousands of years, delivered through a wormhole, or resurrected...or maybe, like Carrie Fisher, just offered a lot of money and strongly encouraged to lose 40 pounds....

At any rate, this mysterious Sith person has face obscuring headgear and the wacky new light saber, so my sons are ready to sign on.

(And on the napkin, he also apparently has a broken arm, given the awkward placement of the hand holding the sandwich.  And I spelled "Darth Revan wrong. It was late, and I was tired. I am sorry)Below is a screen  grab of the half second appearance in the second trailer:

Friday, May 1, 2015

Baby Godzilla Blocks the Brooklyn Bridge's Pedestrian Walkway

A larger walkway obstacle than oblivious tourists with selfie sticks.

Since we had Godzilla and the bridge on the napkin yesterday, Baby Godzilla seemed like the only logical follow-up...well, other than Mothra...or Mechagodzilla. It appears to be a little unclear in the Kaiju universe just how large the infant is supposed to be. In at least one of the movies, he is conveniently person-in-a-lizard-suit sized. But I thought it would be appropriate if he were larger than that, but just small enough to fit on the walkway between the cables.

I used to bike the kids over the Brooklyn Bridge to an occupational therapy appointment in Manhattan on Friday afternoons. The bridge passage was invariably jammed with sightseers photographing themselves while standing  in the bike lane. Mercifully, this was a couple of years ago and before the invention of the selfie stick. I hear things have gotten even more complicated on the bridge since.