Thursday, August 30, 2007

My Rock was a Turtle

It's also up at the Main Gallery page; I might consider adding a "Prose" link just for writing later.

Everyone remembers the Peanuts Halloween special "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown", right? It's a holiday classic at our house. Do you recall that everywhere Charlie went he got a rock at all the houses? Poor ol' Charlie Brown - he always tried so hard and what did he ever get in return? A rock. What good is a rock, really? My answer now is very different than it was when I first saw the show years ago. Because I had a rock and still have it in my heart.

My rock was a turtle.

He was a tiny bamboo turtle with a sticky bottom. The little thing was decorated in black with a Japanese kanji on his shell. His tan feet and head wiggled back and forth hinged by bits of wire inside. He wasn't even as big as a quarter; maybe a little bigger than a nickel. I got him at some museum in the tri-state area when I was relatively young. I was certainly a preteen, maybe six or seven years old. I don't remember. What I do remember is that the museum was my first field trip ever and the first time away from my parents like that. I had no friends back then (and rarely had any through all my school years as a fact) so it was a little lonely having no one to walk with or sit next to on the bus. But it was interesting. Even back then I loved culture, especially anything Asian.

We were shown all around the place and then at the end shoved in front of the "tourist trap" area all museums have. Gift shop, ahoy! It was only a small glass case but it held a surprising array of fake plastic weapons, toys and those little paper yo-yo's that are so much fun to flick out at people. All the kids jumped up and around, snatching at these giant stuffed things and swords, the ninja stars and jewelry. I sat there, numb. My parents were not rich, after all, and I had been given a dollar to spend. These toys cost five dollars and up (in the early eighties that was a big handful of cash for something like that). I remember how I felt at that moment. I held my breath at last after everyone had gone and the adult behind the counter was staring at me. I was asked countless times what I wanted and I didn't know how to say I didn't have any money - not enough, surely. But as it turned out I did have enough for something. At long last someone pried my dollar out of my grip and the frustrated person behind the counter gave me that tiny little turtle. It had been scary - there's nothing more frightening than an exasperated, loud adult to a small child that hadn't been taught how to handle herself in "worldly" situations such as buying anything by herself yet.

Shaking, I slowly walked back to where the gang of children were waiting for the bus and sat down - alone, of course. They had their toys out and were having fun and playing. Most were running about in the nearly empty waiting room hall, getting yelled at by the teachers and generally having a good time. I looked down at that minuscule turtle and saw no one else had anything so insignificant. Not a single child had anything that wasn't as big as their hand or bigger, and most had thought nothing of running up to the adult and screaming "give me that!" As for me it had taken all my courage just to end up with...this.

I was ashamed of my little turtle. The trip felt wasted and useless to me. It hurt a lot. I didn't want to carry this home as my big prize for traveling so far away from home with no one that liked me and buying something "by myself" for the first time. I'm sure I was ungrateful to my parents when I got home but I don't remember much about what happened afterwards. I just remember that turtle. As I grew older the turtle became bigger in my eyes every year, the first step I had taken to something so difficult to me as independence. He was adorable with his little swinging legs and head and no matter that he was small because I was too. I have tried very hard to accomplish what I set out to in my life and I have always been rewarded with a turtle. Nothing large, significant or worth a lot of money.

In the end of middle school I suddenly began to grow faint and pass out up to twenty times a day (it was more like 10 on the average). After a couple years of home schooling and doctor visits everyone said that I was merely depressed. I had always been treated badly by people around me for "faking" all those fainting spells. A year ago, however, I had another spell. This time my husband was close by to take me to a clinic that finally discovered I have extremely low blood pressure. It's a kind of disease and it's not my fault.

I struggled to work a night job and also go to school for graphic arts when I was around 25. The school rewarded me with a high grade score and I was considered the top of my class but I didn't receive any further help: the school went bankrupt shortly after.

When I tried to earn money and be "productive" like my parents always wanted me to be I was just as lucky. My co-workers turned on me and I was dumped from a shelving job to putting returns back on a shelf. I worked harder still, feeling that in the end all would be rewarded and one day I picked up a frozen turkey the wrong way. I injured my self for life but I received a ridiculously low settlement the store offered me.

There were many more experiences like this but they never dragged me all the way down. They're all turtles, in a way. Bittersweet and not what you would want to receive as an achievement or award but they're what life gave me. Good things happened because of the bad and I wouldn't be where I am today, married to an awesome guy that takes care of me like I'm a queen. I'm working at the other parts like I always do, trying to make more of a name for myself in my profession and still struggling with that crippling depression that will always be a part of me. I have the turtle in my heart to guide me, even though somewhere along my travels I lost the actual figure. I don't even know when he disappeared from my life. That dear little dollar turtle I so despised all those years ago means more to me than any hundred dollar turtle I could buy now. I mourn for him but he'll always be in my memory, a symbol of everything I tried to do in my life.

Others can have their fame or their fortune, their money; whatever.

I had a turtle.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Lactose Intolerance Sucks


If you're lactose intolerant you know what I'm talking about. I got the idea for maybe making a poster whilst I sat on the Royal Throne for around a half an hour contemplating why I felt it was necessary to eat all those cream puffs.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

But I Don't Like SpamALot!

And now for something completely different: a review of sorts. You might call this a warning to Monty Python fans more than anything else, though.

I went yesterday to see a production of the musical "Spam a Lot". I've been a giant fan of the Pythons and their films and show for years, as has my husband. The tickets were a gift from his mother and father to us for the holidays last year. The older couple actually joined us because my sister in law is out of the state right now and she couldn't use her two tickets they had also purchased her.

The musical started out famously with the opening scene I remember and love so well. Coconuts, sparrows - what more could I desire? It seemed this was going to be a wonderful show and I settled back to enjoy myself. What was my horror on finding the rest of the plot completely skewed and twisted from the movie and, worse yet, Americanized.

I do realize the production would not have "made it big" in the United States if they used entirely British humor, for it's an acquired taste. What I do oppose is the flagrant warping of everything the Pythons were about in some slapdash musical that had no qualms about luring fans in with promises of "Python goodness". It was abominable. The plot was twined together in as smooth a way as they could do I suppose, with making the knights people that were otherwise minor characters in the movie. They "find" these people in the case of Sir Galahad, making use of the political Denis in the movie (surprise, that's really Galahad). They then tart things up with the Lady of the Lake in a song all about "making him a man" when Galahad is supposed to be chaste.

This is a trend throughout the musical. 'Scantily dressed girls for the win' seems to be their idea, but it was done in such a way that it wasn't funny. It saddened me and even made me angry to see the constant flesh for flesh's sake bits. The song they actually sing in the movie during the Camelot scene is ruined, among other things, by jiggling mounds of jello shaped like breasts carried by Vegas Showgirls ("round" table, get it? Camelot is a casino, of course).

I noticed my mother in law (who dislikes Monty Python) was laughing - at the non-Monty Python parts. Key point, there. This is why they added all those scenes with "Jews", half naked girls and oh yes, let's not forget the (surprise again) gay Launcelot, complete with sequined crotch piece and flamenco dancers. The addition of these parts had this "Monty Python Musical" tasting like a Mel Brook's film from start to finish than a good solid Python fling.


I had to wash my mind to get the flavor out. Thank goodness that "Aqua Teen Hunger Force Movie Colon Film for Theaters" came out that same day.

It was much more satisfying.

In short, "Spam-a-Lot" ruined my love of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail"; I won't be watching it for some time because all I can think of is the inane musical numbers and boobs flashing in front of my face.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

A Few Thoughts on Critiquing

Just a few thoughts on critiquing for those that want to listen to a professional artist that has heard it all, gotten furious sometimes and in general laughed a lot over the years.

Constructive criticism is nice if you want it but when somebody picks at your piece too much it drags you down. I know the people who love to critique like to say the point of it is not to to "nitpick". This is, however, what usually happens. If you point everything out about a picture that you believe to be wrong and then do not say one good thing about it that is too harsh. There are always better sides to all artwork. This applies to writing as well as drawn or painted work.

Of course there all always the 'that sux lol' people. Those don't hurt at all, no matter how much they think they're damaging my self ego. I know I'm good. I make a living off of what I do. And notice I said good - I don't think I'm "great" by any standards. But after many years of publishing and creating my website I have a firm handle on what I can and cannot do. And I've heard so much.

Comments like "the nose is ugly" are simply are not constructive criticism. They are hurtful instead. If you take a few seconds out of your day to comment, then you can surely pin down why it's so "unattractive" to prompt you to say that. And if you don't like a piece at all maybe you shouldn't comment. The phrase 'if you don't have anything nice to say don't say anything at all' works on the internet as much as it does in real life. If you simply hate something do not critique it. Hate is, as I have said before, a strong negative emotion that should not be involved during a critique. If you hate a piece there may be jealousy involved or some other emotion that will be damaging to your impartiality. "Dislike" is about the closest thing that you should feel.

I usually get "hate" comments when I draw fan art, because I rather like inserting my character with the male one I'm in love with from another series. The fact that the artwork is good causes some of these people what appears to be physical pain as they struggle to insult me by any means possible. I once opened up one of my many fanart galleries and saw someone had reported about half my work. Good thing I keep all my files: there was no copying on my part (my pieces were all original) and everything was reinstated. The funny part is that the people who trace and copy things on that same gallery site are much more "popular" than me and get tons of page hits. Interesting.


I've gotten comments from people less than half my age that thought they were "Art Majors" that tore apart a piece I really liked (that had gotten published). Let's examine this idea. Anyone can seriously pick something - even a Master's classic piece (Michaelangelo, James Ector, etc) -- and critique it. But sometimes it's not needed. If it sets out to do what the artist wanted it's complete. Sometimes these critique lovers feel the need to "judge" art. This drives them to eagerly read or click on everything in a person's gallery. But what is good to one person is bad to another. It's all relative and hardly matters sometimes. I've also rendered figural drawings that someone will say 'the forehead looks too big' but it is based off an actual picture. The measurements are perfectly correct. Maybe the forehead does look too big. But that's just what size it is and if you try to explain this some people wig out on you and say you're 'too sensitive'.

I get that a lot.

I'll admit I am touchy about this because my art is my entire life. I love my work and it's a part of me like no one that is not an artist can comprehend. It's as if tiny little 2D children run around that are each so dear to me that I can barely stand it.

But even worse than regular "bad" critiques is what one of my friends suggested: snide comments on gift art. I just had this happen to me and it hurts a lot. The problem is when I was drawing the art I decided to style a part of it as I normally would in a simpler way. It didn't mean I couldn't render something. My form is usually very "easy" with flowing lines. The art got drawn the way it did because it was how I decided to do it. I didn't even think about it; it flowed on the screen and was completed that way.

What did I get in return? You'll love this.

I received a comment back about how 'hard' it was to draw that certain thing, wasn't it? (Insert wink emoticon here). ;)

I gaped at the screen, astonished.

And then I decided I've trusted people too much. I'll never draw gift art again, it's more of a waste of my time than it is anything else. It never seems to be appreciated. I usually get my art spanked when all I do when I get a gift is say "My goodness! THANK YOU." Anyway, after my hormones had cooled down and I vented to my husband a bit, I was calmer. The next day I sat down and in exactly 5 minutes fixed the thing that was "so hard to draw". Obviously it wasn't that hard. The hard part was my heart after that incident. I had drawn something for someone that had given me a surprise piece of gift art themselves. They didn't expect the return gift, it was just my way of thanking them. They had responded with the usual 'thank you' but also that hurtful jab that hovered on the very verge of insult. Please people, think before you comment.

What would you want people to say to you?

Monday, August 6, 2007

My Art is Better Than Yours

My Art is Better Than Yours

I have heard this so many times that I felt that something needs to be said about it. I'm a little rusty at writing essays, but felt maybe the need to unburden myself was too great to pass this topic up. Recently someone claiming to be an 18-year-old or so was quite rude to me and mistakenly jumped to many conclusions about my fan art. In doing so they proved themselves to not be the seasoned artist they think they are (they claimed drawn pictures were screen capped and one can always tell a CAP from drawn pictures).

In my tightly controlled fury I mentioned that I was 29 (at the time) and a professional illustrator. While I like to draw poses that come from actual scenes and shows for fan art, I have no need to copy and paste like some of the younger folks do. I even offered samples of my work but they were blind to everything and would not even look. After they discovered their mistake (as of course they did) they apologized, and I was thrilled to let the matter drop.

That was when they typed what sparked me to write this: "and don't 29 year old pro me please, Im an 18yr old pro artist with my own god darn company, age isnt any matter in this" (sic). They went on to (just as politely) tell me that they've seen 15-year olds that draw better than both of us, and that basically I should shut up.

It got me thinking.

Okay. got me thinking after I stopped capering with malicious glee. See, the user actually had broken a very large rule on the site where this had occurred and she got reported for it. Funny enough, she was advertising she would draw the game characters she didn't own for real money on the site. Nice big company one works for when they have to do that on a gaming site that doesn't allow it, eh?

After I stopped pondering how the person was small-minded and probably jealous, I realized there was something in their simple statement. Not 'thoughts from a Troll', but ideas on how 'better' is defined. I can draw many different styles and use different media to create pieces - I'm not locked into one mode all the time. I draw on DeviantART for fun and camaraderie: I don't have any of my actual pieces, book illustrations or commissioned works here. I tend to like drawing anthros styled after my favorite shows, and I tend to draw certain ways here only. Many folks would be shocked to see some of my realistic pieces, but this is not the place I've deemed appropriate to display them.

But who is to say a piece of Snoopy art is better than a picture drawn of Roronoa Zoro (did it surprise you that I used him as reference?) just because one is an Anime Cartoon and the other a Western Syndicated Cartoon?

Or is one better because the one is a painting and the other computer-rendered? Does a computer-drawn image cheapen the feel of the art? Does lack of shading or coloring? Because let me tell you I've seen gorgeous unshaded, black and white pieces.

Some folks believe so. And yet it can achieve the same feeling as a painting and if the artist desires it to, even mimic it. Also, is the Snoopy painting 'worse' for any reason because Snoopy is a 'simply drawn' character? Who in their right mind would say this? Snoopy is one of the greatest Comic Strip creations of all time, and I doubt anyone would disagree on that. Is Snoopy lesser because he is drawn differently than the Zoro of "One Piece" fame? Just because the swordsman has a slightly more difficult composition?

Here's my suggestion.

Everyone has different styles. Say it with me: styles. Let it roll off the tongue. Pretend you have an AAA Meeting: Addicted Artist's Anonymous or something and are repeating something for your health benefit. In a way, you are.


It's all about different styles and the way people draw. If I saw a Rembrandt and an anime portrait side-by-side, maybe I'd choose the anime portrait as being the 'best drawn', since I love anime. It's personal preferences and taste, not 'Well, obviously Rembrandt was better'. One can compare the Masters of various mediums, but who is to say what's 'best'?

Some folks would look at me oddly if I were to say I believe Hieronymus Bosch was the most fabulous painter and he 'pwns' all other painters. Bosch was internationally celebrated as an eccentric painter of religious visions who dealt in particular with the torments of hell. I believe his depictions were marvelous and creative, but are there not some who would argue this point about their favorite painter?

I have a friend that likes minimalistic art. They'd be willing to stand by their opinion that a small swatch of blue on a white canvas is 'better' than Bosch's finely detailed work.

It's a matter of taste and style. I wish I could have explained that to the person who was chasing after me before, but I doubt they would have listened or believed. Obviously a picture with twisted anatomy and/or bad shading or coloring isn't as well done as one that has these factors straight but who is to say one type is better than another? If one can't draw exactly-true-to-life portraits but they capture all the important features and feeling of the person, who's to say the photo-realistic person is 'better'?

They're different. We're all different.

And for this one who has much to learn, let me simply add this: with age comes something different than anything you can imagine. Wisdom, as I'm sure you've heard before. Patience, as I have been while dealing with you. Skills (because if I have been practicing longer I've picked up secrets and tricks of the trade you did not). And above all, have a lot of fun when you are my age and someone younger does the same to you. It will happen. And you'll end up thinking, more than likely, the same thing I wondered about here.