09 July 2016

EDiJ #9

Today's prompt was "ghost stories." I was a little bit at a loss--hard to paint something that's invisible, right? But then I decided to multitask.

I read the first book in Jonathan Stroud's series "Lockwood & Co.," called The Screaming Staircase, with my 6+7 Book Club at the library, and I've been meaning to read the second book ever since it came out (book #3 is also published by now!), but haven't gotten to it yet. I decided to paint the book cover so that when I finally do read it, I'll have a little illustration to go along with my review for the teen blog.

It's a charming horror-lite concept: An alternate London has inexplicably become infested with ghosts. They're everywhere--in houses, on the streets, and roaming the countryside. Only children and teens can see them or sense their presence, but they wreak all kinds of havoc on adults, even though invisible to them. So the adults quake indoors with all the lights on and all the doors locked, while the teenagers form up into companies and train to capture or destroy the ghosts, ridding people's houses of hauntings, poltergeists and the like. The series follows one company called Lockwood & Co., which consists of Anthony Lockwood, Lucy Carlyle, and George Cubbins, who gird up with silver chains and locking boxes (or jars) designed to contain the supernatural beings, and head out to spend the night in haunted mansions to do their thing.

I have a couple of books ahead of it, so I won't get to it for a while, but when I do, I'll be ready to review!

An interesting list for July

I've been sporadically participating in the "Every Day" Facebook challenges, although I never manage to make a sketch every single day. Still, the creative prompts occasionally inspire me, so I always join up and check in. For Every Day in July, though, I had a reaction to the list provided by this month's moderator.

There wasn't anything wrong with it...if you were white, over 50, and had roots in a rural or suburban lifestyle of a certain kind. Rather than make a list of things she thought would be good art prompts, she made a list of her fondest memories of July, and since July is the "home" of Independence Day, many of them included patriotic prompts (red, white and blue, flags, firecrackers) and summer nostalgia hearkening back to a simpler time and place (potato sack races, pollywogs, the County fair). As I said, nothing inherently wrong with it, but as I was perusing it, I thought about all the people for whom some of these things would draw a blank--non-Americans, to start with, and then people younger than 40, city dwellers who had never been to a County fair or seen a pollywog or knew who Smokey the Bear was, and so on. So, since the month hadn't yet started, I messaged her off-line (not wanting to say something potentially embarrassing to her in front of the 100+ members who had so far joined the page) and gently (I thought) suggested that the list might not be relatable to everyone.

The one prompt in particular that candidly set my teeth on edge was "Vacation Bible School." I thought it was inappropriate, given that many on the list might not be Christian, or might not have fond memories of that particularly American institution. (I certainly do not.) So I mentioned that to her, again trying to be tactful.

I got back a fairly pleasant message from her, saying that these were HER fond memories but anyone was welcome to substitute their memories if the ones she provided didn't resonate, to reinterpret the prompt to suit themselves, or to skip the prompt entirely if it made them uncomfortable. While this was a reasonable response, it did make me wonder why prompts would be provided if people couldn't relate to them...but I let it go.

Then she proceeded to post ON the list her dismay that someone had found her list "offensive." Since I had very carefully not used that word in my message to her, I found that disingenuous and self-serving. And of course there was an outpouring of sympathy for her, and a plethora of comments directed at my inflexibility, insensitivity, and lack of more important things with which to find fault. Fortunately for me, she didn't mention my name, so they weren't aimed directly at me, but still...not very nice.

So, when we got to July 8, which was the "Vacation Bible School" prompt, I made a picture to relieve my feelings. I hesitated about posting it, but then decided to go ahead, with an explanation to go with it:
At first I was going to skip this one, since for me (especially in retrospect) it is not a fond memory; but I decided instead to address it honestly. I was compelled to be part of a church from birth. At a fairly young age, I realized that Christianity wasn't for me, but my family gave me no choice in the matter, and where they went, I had to follow, until I was old enough to go my own way. So after 11 years of Vacation Bible School and three years of church camp, today I would like to share a sketch of what I would have liked to have been offered, had I had a choice.

I fully expected a hail of criticism and censure to rain down upon my head, but instead I got some unexpectedly refreshing comments. One person said she had left the group because she found the list "too American." Another asked, "Do lots of Americans go to Vacation Bible School? I find it a very strange concept." I got a "No kidding! I would have loved this summer camp!" and an "I love your humanist approach!"

Even from the people who had had good experiences at VBS and cherished their Christian backgrounds,  I got some nice shared memories followed by an "atta boy" for expressing my own. And there were a few who reminisced about parents who sent them and their siblings to church while staying home and getting drunk themselves, which made me realize there could have been far worse experiences than mine!

So--I'm glad I posted it. I never did "out" myself as the person who had "complained" (again, not my intention or my word), or said anything in response to the more unforgiving comments on that thread, but I imagine that a few people may have guessed that it's me, based on my Humanist Holidays bus!

I'm doing my best to reinterpret where I can (see my post above with the drawing of my neighborhood, with teensy little plastic flags, planted by the local realtor, in front of every house) and skip what I must. So I guess I am actually doing what the moderator suggested...but I look forward to another month with more universal prompts. (I really enjoyed the Beatles song prompts from June, which were, admittedly, a form of nostalgia for me! but which also had a more wide open interpretation.)

LePen .05 and watercolor.

04 July 2016

Mundanity inspired by grandeur

I follow an artist on Facebook who lives Ireland. Someone once told me that my drawings reminded me of her style, so I checked her out and, immensely flattered by the comparison, started reading her posts and enjoying her art. This week she did a sketch of a place called Tyrone House, in County Galway, which happens to be the view from her front door. I commented on what an inspirational view that must be, and then contemplated the view out my front windows, which is of a suburban row of saltbox houses just like mine. But then I thought, why not just sketch what's in front of you? So I made a sketch of my view and shared it with her, and now with you.

Saturday I dropped by Continental Art Supplies to pick up a new sketchbook, and in addition to getting one of my usual 9x9-inch ones, I decided to also get a long skinny one--6x12-inch--so that I could make myself start learning proportion and perspective by drawing low wide things and tall skinny things, which are the backbones of urban sketching. 9x9 is great for still life or little constructed scenes or book covers, but for a landscape, not so much.

I'm still not great at guesstimating what's going to fit--my plan for this was to include at least three houses, but I just can't draw small enough, it seems. Still, this was an accomplishment for me. It's ironic that my art teacher at Valley College, Carol Bishop, made us work large (18x24) in an attempt to keep us from being "itsy," as she called it. She meant for us to see the big picture and not get invested in the tiny details. I guess I took that lesson on board, because drawing small is hard for me. But on balance it's probably better that I learned to go big first.

Speaking of sweeping landscape orientation, here is Róisin Curé's drawing that inspired me to make this one. I think you'll agree that the vista is a bit grander than Bassett Street!

Didn't she make a lovely sky? I'm sure the Irish would enjoy an occasional cloud-free cobalt sky like we have in California, but the clouds certainly make for nice artwork.

Oh, and since it's Independence Day, I included the little flags a local realtor stuck into our lawns.