Sunday, November 18, 2018

Miraculous Ladybug, Cat Noir, Spider Man and Cat Woman

Bendy Insects with Dark Felines:

Someone at our house might be watching “Miraculous,” but I am not authorized to reveal who that might be. I gather the show is quite popular...but somehow embarrassing to the in-house viewer.

We are talking about “Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir” a French anime style show (“Miraculous, les aventures de Ladybug et Chat Noir”) starring an adolescent Parisian girl named Marinette. Her secret identity is the superhero Ladybug. Her schoolgirl crush is Adrien, whose secret identity, unsurprisingly, is her superhero counterpart, Cat Noir...

Or, en francais: 
Chat Noir.

“Miraculous” definitely traffics in some friendly superhero story elements, Marinette and Adrien are simultaneously awkward young people who can’t be cool around cute members of the opposite sex....and powerful spandex clad heroes easily able to dominate evil adults.

Marinette seems to have some qualities  in common with Peter Parker.....And Adrien bears a startling resemblance to characters who are stereotypically female in the american superhero universe.

Like the cat ladies, he sports a skintight shiny black catsuit, ears, tail and pointy finger tips. And most disturbingly, he wears a large blingy gold bell around his neck.

I’m conjecturing that the French audience has a more elastic understanding of what is allowed in male superhero costumes and thematics.

Gender elasticity in superhero land is certainly a good thing.

But apparently, I need to work on my drawing of bendy people in spandex suits.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Stan Lee

I Have So Many More Stories To Tell....

Stan Lee’s cameo appearance in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 seemed like the most appropriate napkin image to mark his passing yesterday. 

(And how could I pass up the challenge of  a blotchy pink and purple sky and a transparent helmet....though maybe better luck on that next time...)

This cameo was billed in the movie’s credits as “Watchers’ Informant” and he was briefly shown twice, once in a post credit bit, regaling a group of Watchers with stories at an intergalactic transfer. The scene were perhaps a meta joke, suggesting that all of Stan’s cameos in Marvel movies, television shows and comics were appearances of the same character. 

The Watchers, imagined long ago in the comics by Lee and Jack Kirby, are powerful immortal beings whose calling is to observe galactic events.  In the Guardians’ post credits scene, The Watchers depart, leaving him protesting “Hey fellas, where are you going? You were supposed to be my lift home. I have so many stories to tell."

Here’s hoping the Watchers will be giving Stan a ride home.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Fortnite Llama and Red Dead Redemption Horse

But Does the Llama Have Metamorphic Gonads?
(Fortnite Hangs with Red Dead Redemption...or Does it?)

If you follow these sorts of things, no doubt you have heard it said repeatedly that Rockstar Games’ recently released Red Dead Redemption is “so realistic that the horses’ balls shrink in the cold.” 

And there is apparently some threat that Red Dead will eventually have a Battle Royale mode, this threatening Fortnite’s ubiquity.

Both games get played in our house, each having an advocate who attests the superiority of his chosen game.

I am unmoved by the relative merits of llamas and horses with testicles, but it seemed like a fine opportunity to embarrass my son’s by posting an image with the word “gonads” in the title.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Not Inktober 2018

Once More With Feeling:
Inktober 2018 is over, but one more dribbled out anyway.

This one happened while I was trapped on a plane on the way home from LA. I was unfortunately interrupted at the end by my need to focus on not losing the lunch I hadn’t eaten. 

There have been complaints about the inktober heads and the lack of napkins, and I am cognizant of the audience dissatisfaction....though I can’t promise that there will be zero heads or non napkin stuff in the future.

But yes, probably something Fortnite and/or Red Dead related is coming.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Inktober 2018 Day 31

Finished Under Duress

It was only 9:43 pm, October 31st at LAX, where I finished this one, sitting on a dark plane between two sleeping strangers, using my in-flight drink as the liquid to mix the watercolor. (Poured the rest in my lap)  The color was a bit of a challenge given the glaringly blue single overhead light.
So while it was already November 1st in NYC, I was still in October in California.

So Inktober was complete by the end of the month.
So there.

Thanks for bearing with me, those of you are still here.

I might have a few more distorted heads to get out of my system, but I will try to get back to more friendly napkin soon as I make it back to my family in Brooklyn.

Inktober 2018 Day 30

Persistent Vegetative State:

There always has to be a pumpkin / Halloween themed inktober drawing.

Those pale growths on pumpkins and other squash are called cucurbit warts, for whatever that is worth.

Is the face visible? My son suggested that I should display it sideways to facilitate recognition, but that seemed to spoil the premise.

Inktober 2018 Day 29

That Thing Inside My Skull

Inktober is winding down in a rather dismal state for me, can you tell?

Inktober 2018 Day 28

What Can I Say? I Am Not Full of Surprises:

I always enjoy images of monumental sculpture that is falling apart, revealing the interior structure.

Also, wraparound sunglasses are cool. 

The inside of my head might be full of debris and in need of a good cleaning and some replacement windows.

Inktober 2018 Day 27

It All Looks The Same To Me:

The drawing is the only one that I did before the month of October started. I thought it might be wise to have something in the bank as I knew that I would inevitably fall behind. 

Here we are at the 31st, and I am definitely far behind....though I feel compelled to offer in my own defense that other than this image, all the drawings were completed by month’s end, more or less on a daily schedule. I haven’t done so well at the posting part.

And this one, the only one executed without the daily deadline, is definitely a dud. 

I did make an attempt to draw it as if I had a this case, that might have translated to “quickly and poorly.”

And some of the heads in it bear an unfortunate resemblance to a couple of my ex boyfriends, so that’s not good either.

Inktober 2018 Day 26

I’m Sorry, Was I Still Talking?

I read recently that no two ears are the same. They are all special snowflakes that could be used to identify us like fingerprints...or perhaps more appropriately, to unlock our phones.

Each ear is an incredibly complicated sculptural form unto itself. Its interplay of concave and convex shapes originates inside the crevice between the jaw and skull, yet protrudes more than most other features.

But we mostly have the idea that ears are flat things (with holes) applied to the outside of our heads... 

I always find it difficult to discuss ears in a portrait sculpture class. I want to describe some of their individual complexity, but not turn them into a distracting problem that doesn’t support the whole.  

Most of us don’t spend much time studying other people’s if making a portrait sculpture is at least partially about creating a physical analog or material history for the act of looking carefully at another person, in most cases, it probably shouldn’t focus heavily on the ears.

Nevertheless, I find I am particularly unpersuasive in class when it comes to ears. Is anyone listening to me?

And my ears, often used as a visual aid, are particularly boring.

Inktober 2018 Day 25

It Should Get Easier With Practice:

Self decapitation has been a bit of a specialty of mine.

Not sure I am getting better at it though.

Inktober 2018 Day 24

Not Entirely Empty Inside:
(Second Face for the “Second Brain”)

Continuing on about the theme that we might all be overly focused on our heads...(and this from the person who has been drawing her own head every day for the last month)

Read any three sentences in the “health and wellness” space and at least one is likely to tell you that the gut is the key to overall physical and mental health. 

95% of our serotonin resides in the gastrointestinal tract, and there as many neural cells just in the small intestine as there are in the spinal cord. These are just two bits of the evidence that indicates that our heads may not exactly be in charge. 

But it’s harder to read expressions off a stomach, even one’s own. Unless it has a cheesy face.

And as long as I am driveling along here: I want to add that the "belly face" is an appropriate concept as regards the exterior of the body also. 

Enter “Belly” and “Face” into an online search field (and you will get some appalling videos of faces drawn or squished into protruding bellies) but the main link seems to be “FAT” Google suggests that everyone’s faces and bellies share the same pathological need for slimming assistance. 

Face and Stomach are the body definitely the two areas that concentrate dissatisfaction. Some people may be unhappy with, say, their ankles, but it’s not a pandemic.

Inktober 2018 Day 23

Gorgon Finger Puppets
Inktober 2018 Day 23

While I am on the topic of heads and the stuff on them, I cannot help by think of the rather famous head that gets carried around to vanquish monsters in Greek mythology.

Medusa is certainly a problematic figure. Her power and ability to turn the living into statues makes me want to claim her as a fraught metaphor for female sculpture making. 

But there’s the initial rape (or at least some sort of “defiling” in Athena’s temple), the beheading, and the undignified supporting role in the story starring Perseus that really takes the fun out of it. 

And all that horrible Freudian interpretation about symbolic female genitals and the castration complex is quite offensive to those of us with “the wound that never heals.”

....though the synopsis I find on Wikipedia of Freud’s assertion that Medusa becomes “the unapproachable woman who repels all sexual desire by carrying (symbolically) the genitals of the mother.”....  seems not entirely incorrect for my role as the parent of two adolescent boys. 

However, of all the things that can be claimed as phallic symbols: snakes, fingers, cigars, etc... fingers are the only ones that are good for drawing and sculpting.

At there’s that mind/body split between thinking and doing...and between mental feeling and physical feeling...that makes me think that have a scalp full of (at least metaphorical) fingers might not be all bad.

Yes, I am still two days behind on posts for inktober because I have to write all this drivel.

Inktober 2018 Day 22

I Feel Moderately Ambivalent About My Neck:

“I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman” was a 2006 book written by Nora Ephron. 

I am not proud to be name it here without having read it. At the time of its publication, I was subsisting on a steady diet of NPR interviews, so I did hear Ms. Ephron discuss her book multiple times, and gave some serious thought to the title, subtitle, and ostensible content. 

Back in 2006, when I was not yet officially an old lady, I might have felt a tiny bit critical of the idea that women “of a certain age” should necessarily spend much time mourning the lost elasticity of the skin between their jaw and collarbone. How much time do older men spend looking in the mirror at their necks? I wondered. Well...probably more and more these days.

Of course, twelve more years and thousands of miles down the road, I understand more clearly that age and vanity come for us all in some form or another.  This information hasn’t helped me with my own vanity problems, but maybe it helps mitigate my disapproval of other people’s vanity problems. 

But besides holding the head up, the neck is a fascinating body part, full of all sorts of odd color and evocative anatomical detail.

And the older I get, the more interesting it becomes. 
So, there’s a lot to look forward to. 

Inktober 2018 Day 21

Does Somebody Need A Hug?

Self portraits are convenient, and I always feel better about decapitating and degrading myself than doing so to other people. 

I exploited the kids last year for inktober 2017, and felt a little anxious about it. My drawings of our sons are always more revealing of (and more embarrassing to) me than them. And they seem to be more or less pleased by (or tolerant of) the attention...But that will likely change.  

None the less, drawing myself repeatedly for a month is definitely irritating and boring. 

Probably for you also.

This image about ambivalence comes from something I learned watching our kids. 

An only child, I was not intimately familiar with the essential sibling move: The Love/Hate Hug/Strangle.  

Very early on in their relationship, our older son would say repeatedly, “I NEED to HUG the baby!” And he wasn’t just trying to close an airway, (though that might have been a happy accident) he was HUGGING. This still goes on today. But now it is bidirectional. 

Perhaps one can express affection and disdain towards oneself in a similar fashion.

Inktober 2018 Day 20

Were We Ever Really Friends?
Inktober 2018 Day 20

Conjoined folks have to get along somehow. I am not sure I would do well if physically attached to another iteration of myself. (So opinionated! So self centered! Does she really always have to be doing something?) 

While just a thought experiment  prompted by my wish to draw two unflattering views of my aging neck, perhaps I should give this some more thought.

Inktober 2018 Day 19

I May Have Underestimated My Uncoolness:

“Testament of Orpheus” was the last film made by Jean Cocteau in 1960. A dying poet played by Cocteau himself (also dying at the time) travels through time and meets various god like personages. Their more than mortal status in the film is indicated by large, blank, artificial eyes. The God Eyes are very low-tech, apparently just drawn on paper. However one might feel about the film, the eye thing was a nice solution. 

When you can’t read someone’s gaze, you can’t read their intent or their role in the social order. Thus the enormous empowerment of wearing dark sunglasses.

I thought about this eye covering/ replacement topic and foolishly replaced my eyes with feline eyes. I considered many possibilities from flat symbolic drawings to tree frog eyes. 

Cat eyes seemed like a good choice. They are proportionally larger on the face and cats are too cool for both poets and immortals. And my son likes them a lot. 

But I underestimated my ability to make even cat eyes uncool. 

On me the effect is more Sleestak than avant-garde immortal. 

(Yes, for those of you who were watching tv back in 1974, the Sleestaks did have black eyes, but you know what I mean)

Inktober 2018 Day 18

Definitely Not As Cute As The Monkey On My Back:

We tend to think of other people’s heads as representing the whole person. And we tend to think of the essential part of ourselves as resident inside our own heads.

But there is evidence that emotion, and even thought, requires the rest of the body, at least as feedback loop, if not actual origin.

I’ve done a lot of work about the head vs the body in sculpture and drawing over the years without making any identifiable progress on the topic.  

And I’m afraid the proximate source of this drawing was the recent cover of National Geographic- “See The Bond of Monkeys and Humans in the Amazon” which featured a winsome monkey sitting on the head of a winsome child. 

Neither iteration of me is winsome. But while thinking about what could sit on my head, I did give some serious consideration to while I am less cute than a monkey....maybe I am more cute than a rat?...

But actually, no. Can’t make that claim.

Inktober 2018 Day 17

Not My Most Authentic Self:

Tooth enamel is the hardest biological substance known, and lasts longer than the other parts of the skull. Given my dental challenges, I am not confident about the longevity of the rest of me.

While never a skilled smiler, I had exemplary teeth until the age of 35. I was a dental hygiene zealot during childhood and didn’t have a single cavity until pregnant with our first child. But things started to fall apart then, and have continued to decline ever since. 

I sculpted a partial mask with big grinning teeth to wear in a cibachrome photograph many years ago. At that point, I was mostly interested in the social ramifications of a big fake smile.  

But now that my actual smile is no longer entirely natural, I have a slightly different perspective on what the wearing of fake teeth might mean.

Inktober 2018 Day 16

Even More Difficult And Uncomfortable Than It Looks:

Thinking about heads, portraiture and distortion always brings the work of Franz Xavier Messerschmidt to my mind. He was initially a rather traditionally inclined Austrian sculptor in  the mid to late 1700’s. 

Near the end of his life, however, Messerschmidt produced a large series of peculiar “character heads” of men who faces were contorted in bizarre expressions. Facts are a bit inconclusive, but there is some evidence that these heads were not just exercises in idiosyncratic exaggeration, but were in fact driven by paranoia and hallucinations. He supposedly created the expressions by pinching himself under his ribs, and the heads somehow gained him protection from various spirits and “the god of proportion,” who tortured him at night.

These Messerschmidt busts are reproduced so frequently now that they almost seem commonplace...but while thinking about facial expression recently, I tried mimicking some of the expressions on my own face. 

I had very little success. After a few minutes, I had a headache, and felt in danger of breaking a blood vessel somewhere. Perhaps my facial muscles need more exercise...certainly more decorative symmetry....but I don’t think that is something I can acquire.

But I did not try pinching myself under my ribs, or anywhere else, and the God of Proportion has always left me alone.

Inktober 2018 Day 15

Regarding The Interior Critic;

I am always a little ambivalent about anatomical information. Sometimes the incomplete knowledge (it’s always incomplete unless one is an anatomy master, and there are very few of those) is more of a distraction and an impediment to careful observation.  

I did study anatomy pretty attentively during college on my own and in an ecorché class at the New York Academy of Art. Sadly, I think I might have managed to forget most of it.

But...I do clearly remember an undergraduate class with the venerable Bernard Chaet. He was not a practitioner of anatomy as an end in itself, but he assigned projects where we had to draw skeletons into famous works of art. And he had us repeatedly draw self portraits.  These he would mercilessly correct in class, looking each student in the face while commenting on both our failures in drawing skill and physical attractiveness: For example: “you’re clearly misunderstood how to use perspective to render your face in a three quarter view...and your nose has a much larger lump on the end than you have drawn.”

I fear that Bernard Chaet would not be impressed with my Inktober Day 15 offering.

But he does continue to influence my drawing and sculpting still despite the passage of many years and his passing in 2012.

So perhaps this is a momento mori subway selfie? 

That sounds pretty pretentious doesn’t it? I was really just trying to see if I could stuff a skull into my head on short notice. The answer was only sort of.

Inktober 2018 Day 14

Insulting To Dogs:

The human head is distinctive in many ways, but particularly in its lack of a protruding muzzle, and its odd, protruding chin.  

Some evolutionary biologists theorize that since human teeth were no longer essential weapons, the mouth was allowed to sink back into the face and decrease in size. But the human chin is apparently a difficult-to-explain oddity. I read that even our close relatives the Neanderthals didn’t have chins like we do.

Evolutionary adaptations aside, I sometimes do wonder if at least one of my kids would fare better just hanging out with a dog than with his micromanaging, health-promoting mother. 

But clearly, mother/dog hybrids won’t help.

My son told me this drawing was an insult to myself...and, perhaps more notably, an insult to dogs.

Inktober 2018 Day 13

Is It What’s Inside That Counts?

I often find myself telling sculpture students that when they are working on a mouth, they need to think about the surfaces wrapping around from the outside to the inside...rather than just drawing a line.  

I do repeat myself a lot, both in class and everywhere else.

But the human inside- ie the mouth and the digestive tract- is in fact basically outside. We are essentially walking tubes that support a whole system of microorganisms. 

(A little off the topic of heads and their distortions, I know.)

But to finish the tube of microorganisms spends a huge amount of time on the subway, usually accompanied by the bacteria and viral transfer mechanisms otherwise  known as children. 

So I figure the majority of my interior tube has probably been colonized by microorganisms from the New York City Subway tubes.

Inktober 2018 Day 12

Is That An Angry Mob Coming Our Way?

Most contemporary people are not magical thinkers who believe that an effigy of a person is invested with that person’s actual presence or power....

But worldwide, people still go to some trouble to topple, deface, or destroy images of folks whose authority they don’t appreciate. 

(Though on some occasions, apparently the US marines are there to stir things up for a photo op)

Decapitating the authority figure is cathartic and empowering, no doubt. 

If only my kids could install a lawfully elected democratic government to run things after deposing their leaders. 

Less bickering that way.