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It is 11:00 PM on Friday night after a long week and I have no blog post written. You know what that means! It’s time to take out my little book and post some of the frivolous sketches which I do on the train or at lunch. Since it is October and we are approaching the scary Halloween feature week, I have been doing some creepy otherworldly little drawings. Above is a nighttime laboratory with two mad scientists hard at work doing some transgenic modifications to various organisms. Ethereal spirit people drift by outside beneath the cold stars and various beasts and plants inhabit the spaces of the Gothic room not taken up by weird lab apparati. The seated scientist bears a striking resemblance to a particular Abrahamic deity, but perhaps he is just playing god (not that there is anything wrong with that). Only when I was done with the picture did I realize that the second scientist bears a striking resemblance to Rick from Rick and Morty (do you watch The Adventures of Rick and Morty? You should!).
In the second drawing, a little glowing man in a hyperbaric pod lands on a strange world as a many limbed beast cavorts atop his craft. The fronds of the creature’s vegetative back are a refuge for tiny green elf-like beings. A pulpy red sphere with a green top in the foreground may be a tomato…or a larval version of the creature. There is really nothing more to say about this image.
So, over the holidays I gave some coloring books to my friends’ daughter. It was gratifying to see how the coloring books, by grace of being the last presents of Christmas Day, stole her attention from the electronic doodads and the flying fairy which could actually fly (although, as a toymaker, I am still thinking about that particular toy). In gift-giving, as in gymnastics, going last is a position of strength! The little girl, who is four, graciously let me color one of the illustrations–a sacred elephant which was composed of magical spirit beings from Thai mythology–which I colored in fantastical fluorescent hues (while she colored her way through a collection of amazing animals from around the world). As we were coloring, the adults at the party made various observations about coloring—about who colored inside the lines and what it indicated about their personality and so forth.
I think my elephant turned out pretty well (although since, I failed to take a picture, you’ll just have to believe me). Also I think my friend’s daughter was inspired to try some new techniques—like darkening the edges of objects. It also seemed like she tried to pay more attention to the lines.
The experience took me back to my own childhood when I loved to color coloring books, especially with grandma or mom (both of whom had a real aptitude for precise coloring). However I was also reminded of being deeply frustrated by the books on several levels as a child. First of all, I was exasperated by my traitorous hands which would not color with the beautiful precision and depth that the adults could master. I always saved the best picture in coloring books for later when I was grown up and could color it as beautifully as I wanted it to be colored. As far as I know, these pictures all remain uncolored—somewhere out there is that 1978 Star Trek coloring book picture with all the crazy aliens, just waiting for me to come back with my Prismacolor pencils and nimble adult fingers and finally make it look good…
Most importantly, I was frustrated that the most amazing pictures—the ones that were exactly as I wanted them to be–were not in the coloring books at all. You have to make up the ones you really want and draw them yourself.
Aesthetics have gone wrong—it has been taken over by charlatans who cannot think up good pictures. Instead today’s marquis artists are obsessed only with provocatively going outside the lines. Like the kid in first grade who always did what he thought would be shocking, this quickly becomes tiresome. Additionally, I think we all discovered that the “shock value” kid was easily manipulated. So too are today’s famous artists who all end up serving Louis Vuitton (I’m looking at you, Takashi Murakami) or other slimy corporate masters who simply want free marketing. Art and aesthetics should be more than ugly clickbait! Our conception of beauty shapes are moral conception of society and the world. Therefore my New Year’s resolution is to be a better painter… and to explain myself better. Next year I promise to write more movingly about beauty, meaning, and humankind’s place in the natural world (which I have finally realized is the theme of my artworks). Avaricious marketers and art school hacks are not the only people who can take to the internet to explain themselves!
And of course there will be lots of amazing animals and magnificent trees and exquisite colors and crazy stories from history (and we will always keep one eye on outer space). The list of categories over there to the left is becoming restrictive! It’s time to bust out and write about all sorts of new things! Happy New Year! 2015 is going to be great! Enjoy your New Year’s celebrations and I’ll see you back here next year!