Again I was drawing passerby from my usual picture window at the cafe yesterday.
Tagged: About Me, Art, character design, Childhood, gesture drawing, Illustration, quick sketch, sketchbook, sketchbook drawing Display Comments Add a Comment
Again I was drawing passerby from my usual picture window at the cafe yesterday.
WordPressers, day in and day out, you entertain us, you make us think, you make us laugh, and you make us grateful to be exposed to so many voices all over the world. It’s a pleasure to read what you’re writing. Like everyone in the community, we value that feeling of connection that comes from reading something that speaks to you, that resonates, that makes you feel not so alone.
For this edition of Freshly Pressed Faves, we’re looking at three posts that do just that, all around the idea of “busy-ness.” Modern society seems to embrace the idea that unless you’re “swamped” or “super busy,” you just aren’t being productive enough. Free time? Fill it up, preferably with something that pays! This attitude permeates children’s lives, too, with scheduled after-school dance classes and soccer practices and violin lessons and foreign language tutors. The idle hours that once allowed kids to daydream seem to be no more. When’s enough enough, though?
Author Tim Kreider believes ‘Our frantic days are really just a hedge against emptiness.’ We feel we are nothing, not worthy, unimportant or left out if we have nothing to do.
But there is another aspect to it. Perfectionism – that shadow from our childhoods. We want to be excellent – because if we are, we will be worthy of love. So we take on anything and everything that is thrown us. Even when we are aware we are overwhelmed, we find it hard to say ‘NO’. Because we fear that if we do – people will think less of us. So we end up doing more than our fair share.
Sofagirl at Campari & Sofa writes eloquently about her own fight with the “busy” beast and the scary personal episode that drove her to question it all. Weaving in others’ research on the topic, she presents a compelling argument for taking a step back — and a deep breath — and for refusing to participate in the tyranny of “busy” any longer. Bet you’ll find it difficult to disagree.
As kids we could come up with 16 ways to put our lives on the line using the jungle gym in ways no designer ever intended. They were days when we simply looked at clouds and imagined animals (or teachers or, for the juvenile delinquents, body parts) hiding in the puffy expanse of the heavens. … We were bored, but no one was ever bored enough to learn something.
Except it appears, according to recent research, that boredom is good for the brain. Evidently, boredom switches our brain’s little buttons and the synapses and neurons start firing on more cylinders, pushing us to creativity and intellectual growth.
John Wegner of Consistently Contradictory harkens back to a time when “boredom” and free time were acceptable and even encouraged, when we didn’t rely on technology and scheduling quite so much, and when we allowed our brains to wander. Are we losing the benefits of this today? Should we re-introduce some “slack” into schools? Read John’s convincing and thought-provoking post and you’ll probably be answering “yes.”
When I was a kid, Dad made it clear that ‘mere play’ was being idle—something lazy people did. And boy, you couldn’t get lazier than me.
Michael Maupin from Completely in the Dark takes us back to his childhood and the lasting effects of not being encouraged to “play.” He explains, “As a shadow, it darkened the room, filling me with anxiety and self-doubt: ‘What am I doing now? Is it practical? Is it useful? Shouldn’t I be ashamed?’ … For years that sound, that shadow, was all around. It blocked up my writing, my artwork, my self-esteem — everything. I was psychologically held at gunpoint by an ethic that carries little currency in my world.”
Not one to be bullied, however, Michael has found ways to protect and embrace his natural tendencies towards “play and reverie.” Read his post, and you’ll be inspired to do the same.
Did you read something in the Reader that you think is Freshly Pressed material? Feel free to leave us a link, or tweet us @freshly_pressed.
For more inspiration, check out our writing challenges, photo challenges, and other blogging tips at The Daily Post; visit our Recommended Blogs; and browse the most popular topics in the Reader. For editorial guidelines for Freshly Pressed, read: So You Want To Be Freshly Pressed.
Some disturbed individual buys a bunch of guns and murders a bunch of people. The media falls in love with the story. We endure some rounds of punditry. A few people change their minds on the issues of gun control and mental healthcare, but most of us stand firm in our opinions. Then, after a few days, we move on, until another wayward soul takes some shots at another awful legacy and we all say, “we’ve seen this before and we’ll see it again.”
I rarely address current events on this blog. I almost never mention my politics. But I feel the need to address the issue of guns and gun violence. Don’t worry, I’m not here with boatloads of links and statistics and I don’t think I’m qualified to offer viable solutions. I’m only going to talk about how this issue relates to my life and my writing.
I’ve never owned a real gun, or even fired one. Although I lived a free-range childhood that involved plenty of squirt, rubber dart, and cap guns, my parents didn’t allow firearms in the house. Even BB guns were off limits. If I wanted to shoot an air rifle, I had to arrange a clandestine meeting in the woods with a friend who owned a pump-action Daisy. During one such meeting, I ended up with a welt on my cheek, the result of poor safety precautions and an opportunistic ricochet. “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid,” indeed.
Six or seven years later, when I was studying in London, a lone Englishman at a party full of Americans approached me and asked how many of us were carrying guns. I laughed at the absurdity of his question, but he wasn’t joking. Not only did he believe that all Americans owned and carried guns, he also assumed that we did so when we traveled.
A year after that, on New Year’s Eve, I was in a nearly empty pizza parlor on Bleecker Street when a group of teens in puffy coats entered. They didn’t attempt to order. They just stood amid the tables, eyeing up the cashier. When one teen unzipped his coat, I saw a pistol tucked in his waistband. The cashier knew what was about to happen; he placed his hands flat on the counter and didn’t budge. After a tense minute or two, one of the teens finally said, “not worth it,” and they walked out.
A few years later, in rural upstate New York, I attended a 4th of July party. In lieu of fireworks, the host pulled an Uzi from his impressive gun cabinet and proceeded to shoot a few dozen rounds into the air. I don’t know if he was the legal owner of that Uzi, but I doubt it. I left the party shortly after the entertainment.
Guns haven’t played much of a role in my life of late, except when it comes to my writing. These days, I write books about kids. Because my books are about kids, they’re sold to kids. In my books, some of the characters wield and shoot guns. Those characters are all kids.
During the editorial stages, I have been asked to remove plenty of swearing and kissing from my books. It’s a business decision more than an artistic one. Certain libraries and book-buyers refuse to buy anything in the middle-grade market (i.e. fare for ages 9–12) that features a few hells and a little frenching. And yet, I have never been asked to edit out a gun or an incident of gun violence, even when a 12-year-old character is the perpetrator of that violence. The powers-that-be are okay with all that.
Should they be okay with all that, though? I don’t know. I hope they should be, as long as I’m doing my job as an author, which I believe is to provide an engrossing story with compelling characters whose motivations are relatable aDisplay Comments Add a Comment
I thought it was time to post a photograph. Since I happened on this old photo of my daughter I thought I’d share. I always liked this photo, daughter aside but also because it has a freshness I like. Now that I look at it nearly two decades later I still like it for that reason.
I remember my first 35 mm camera. A friend I meet in France noticed I liked photography and introduced me to the real world of camera formats by letting me use his inexpensive fixed lens 35mm. Upon returning to the states I bought a Pentax K1000, a real workhorse which I took this with. You’ve probably heard others say the same but I have to say it too…I miss the format compared to digital.
“Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road.” It is one of the most celebrated of all fictional beginnings, evoking the essence and tradition of narrative itself, telling a first story to a child, and at the same time the beginning of a very sophisticated kind of biographical fiction, the childhood and youth of an artist. Joyce’s self-portrait in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man absorbed and reinforced a Romantic tradition that assumes the artist’s life is determined by childhood and inevitably grows out of those earliest experiences. It was Baudelaire who proclaimed that “genius is the power to recover childhood” so it is hardly surprising that the shape of the artist’s life is so often set down chronologically, as if it is uniquely and inescapably defined by its starting point and its familial contexts.
Literary biographers, and often the memoirs of artists, have usually reinforced this pattern. Richard Ellmann begins his justly acclaimed biography of Joyce with a chapter entitled “The Family Before Joyce” and comments: “Stephen Dedalus said the family was a net which he would fly past, but James Joyce chose rather to entangle himself and his works in it.” Ellmann takes his cue, then, from Joyce, but it is not only Romantic paradigms and the artists themselves that influenced the shape of literary biography in the twentieth century; perhaps even more important were psychological paradigms, and the idea that biography is a branch of history played a part.
At any rate, common sense seems to endorse this way of beginning and contributes to the expectation that a biography should begin at birth and also sketch the genetic or historical inheritance. We observe people around us growing into adulthood and away from or towards the patterns of behaviour they have known in their childhood. Recollection is always affecting, especially childhood memories, in conversation or in reading. Yet it is selective recollection, and we do not really remember chronologically.In the second half of a lifespan, especially, as we move further away from childhood and may no longer have parents alive, we become aware of many other ways of finding order in a life. We realize, for instance, that there are many beginnings and endings, or phases that seem to break away from, or repeat, earlier patterns.
If we ask when a writing life begins, it may make more sense to focus less on chronology or childhood and more on the moment that allows us to map the beginning of significant accomplishment. For instance, both Proust and Beckett spent fifteen years dithering before they really began the work on which their fame rests; the work that came before would be forgotten without that new beginning. It was in 1909, when Proust composed the essays in Contre Sainte Beuve, that he really discovered the focus and energy that allowed him to begin A la recherche du temps perdu. The five years that followed the end of World War II gave Beckett The Trilogy, Waiting for Godot, and other work of a new stylistic beginning. It might even be said that he began again about the age of forty and that this was the true beginning of his work. Conrad’s decision to write in English may be the decisive moment in his career.
In the end, and in the beginning, it is how people gather togAdd a Comment
To Any Reader - Robert Louis Stevenson. Click READ MORE. As from the house your mother sees
You playing round the garden trees,
So you may see, if you will look
Through the windows of this book,
Another child, far, far away,
And in another garden, play.
But do not think you can at all,
By knocking on the window, call
That child to hear you. He intent
Is all on his play-business bent.
He does not hear, he will not look,
Nor yet be lured out of this book.
For, long ago, the truth to say,
He has grown up and gone away,
And it is but a child of air
That lingers in the garden there.
I was once an addict. Shocking, I know, but before you go calling Dr. Drew and booking a 20/20 interview, let me provide some clarification. My addiction was a common one for young’ns and agoraphobes and the pasty-skinned of this world . I was obsessed with video games. Many of my pre-teen and teenage years were spent slaughtering goblins and dunking over Larry Bird. Time, money and opportunities to chat up girls were wasted. And what do I have to show for it? An unhealthy knowledge of Kid Icarus and some undying regrets that involve never finishing Metal Gear. All things considered, not so bad. At least I’m not on a street corner, holding some cardboard, and talking about my “radio voice.”
Once an addict, always an addict, they say, but I’m going to dispute that. I set down the video game controller when I went to college, and aside from a few poor showings at Mortal Kombat and NHL Hockey, I didn’t pick it up again. It was an activity I associated with my whelps. College meant I was sophisticated, and did sophisticated things. Like drink Gatorade cocktails and run through campus in nothing but my skivvies.
After college, video games occupied the same place in my mind as amusement parks. Sure, I know they could be fun and they had gotten a lot bigger and better than they were when I was a kid, but I wasn’t about to spend my day riding The Great American Scream Machine and then writing fan fiction about it. I laid off the stuff completely for nearly 10 years.
Then my wife bought me a Wii for my birthday. I’m not sure why. It’s not like I was always comparing her to the masked love of my adolescence, Samus Aran. Perhaps I was talking in my sleep, mumbling, “look out about for Koopa…Paratroopa,” or “up up, down down, left right, left right…” In any case, she tracked a Wii down for me, in the days when they were kinda hard to get. And I was pleasantly surprised.
We had some friends over for a night Wii Sports, and it was just like a commercial. We were laughing and high-fiving as we plowed down bowling pins and beat the stuffing out of each other. The snacks were diverse and plentiful. Good times. And in the following weeks, I played a little bit on the weekends, perfecting my short game and my hook. It was fun, but I was definitely a recreational user.
Then I was reintroduced to Zelda. Just so you know, one of my greatest accomplishments was being the first kid in my 6th grade class to win the original Legend of Zelda. And I did it without the aid of hints and magazines. For a brief time, I was like some guru on a hill. Kids would come to me in the cafeteria with desperate queries and I would answer them in riddles.
“How do I defeat the Digdogger?”
“Well son. I ask you this. Do you have music in your heart?”
As games went, Zelda was bona fide – a top shelf, genuine issue classic. It’s hero, Link, was the sort of icon that Funyon-eaters and children in Kyoto tattooed on their necks. And years later, as I putted around the online Wii store, I realized I had missed out on almost all of Link’s other adventures during my hiatus from the gaming world. And my hands began to shake. I got cotton mouth. I downloaded 2 Comments on The Missing Link, last added: 3/12/2011
I needed to supply a photo of me as a five-year-old for a current project, so I dug up my old first-grade school yearbook. Here's my mug shot, which I notice I carefully circled and labelled:
I'm almost completely blind in this photo, I got glasses a few months after it was taken, and I remember exclaiming to the optometrist, '...but you're so small!' as all the fuzzy edges came off her. (I also remember her being a bit pleased about me saying that.) The specs were thick, clearish plastic, purple on top and pink on the bottom. I got badly teased about them, but not any more than I was already getting.
Here's the yearbook's front page. I went to a Dutch Reform school near Seattle, which was a very strange place, but the teachers and staff were well-meaning.
The kids were not so well meaning. Just a closeup of that photo, there. I remember some of these kids, they were HORRIBLE.
Some day I will make a comic about what happened on the hour-and-a-half school bus ride, where we went all around the twisty coastal roads of a nearby island before I'd get dropped off near home. Sometimes my mother would have pity and collect me from school or one of the nearer bus stops.
Here's my lovely first art teacher, named Charlie Brown (for real, just like the Peanuts character). The best days were when I had after-school oil painting classes and didn't have to go on the school bus. He was very kind to me, I will always be grateful to him.
Here's my first-grade class and Mrs Roach. Whom I thought looked a teeny bit like an older version of Elizabeth Taylor.
The page next to it has everyone in candid group photos, but mine shows me by myself. I remember those dungarees well. I wore a lot of dungarees, and loved playing in the sandbox with my next-door neighbour, Christopher, and my Tonka trucks.
Kinda cool to think that nearly everything in the world started as a spark in someone's head. What will you create with your sparks?
Tell us about the fantastic-futuristic inventions you're planning to unleash on the world when you get older...
|The Sparks Question Mark|
When was the last time you climbed a tree?
What’s your favorite and most unusual Easter tradition?
When I was in Seattle, I had a great time going through some old family photo albums and taking quick snapshots of some of them. I noticed a couple themes that emerged. One of them was books; there were loads of photos of people reading to my sister and me. I'm certain that had loads to do with me being an obsessive reader as a kid and teenager, and why I'm making books today. Funnily enough, my sister didn't like reading for a long time, until she discovered Archie comics. Now she reads even more than I do.
Here's my dad, reading to me in the house where my parents still live. Check out Dad's fab trousers!
I think that giving kids access to books and apps is great, but nothing beats getting read to. I still love it. When Stuart and I first got married, we decided we were going to read books to each other. But maybe I have a bad reading voice, or Stuart just likes to be in charge or something, but it quickly morphed into Stuart reading to me. (Which suits me just fine.)
My grandma reading to my sister and me
Stuart and I worked our way through Bill Bryson's Notes from a Small Island, The Wind in the Willows, Rebecca and a couple other books. It's funny how a book can come across differently when someone else reads it. When I read Rebecca (by Daphne du Maurier), I really sympathised with the timid main character, but when Stuart read it, I thought, I'd much rather meet the headstrong, fun-loving first wife, Rebecca.
Dominique, our baby-sitter, reading to us. I can identify the other book, Bedtime for Frances by Russell Hoban and Garth Williams.
Family friend JoAnn Burwell reading to us, with our friend Sarah Knofel. Sarah was much of a bookworm as I was.
My aunt looks on as her friend Marjorie reads to us The Magician and the Petnapping by David McKee. (Here's an interview I did as an adult with David McKee!)
Reading Shel Silverstein's Where the Sidewalk Ends to my grandpa
Oh, and I noticed another theme of our photo albums: I come from a line of people who wear kickin' spectacles. Here's my mother and grandma:
Jet-lag and catching up means it's taken me a week and a half to blog this, but here it is, my Stumptown blog post!
My family used to go every year to the Oregon on holiday (Cannon Beach, to be specific - here's a photo. Cannon Beach was where a lot of the outdoor scenes of The Goonies was filmed.) Since it's our old vacation place, I've always thought of Oregon as my favourite state.
As I flew over from MoCCA festival in New York City, I drew this mini comic on the plane to Seattle and roped my parents into helping me put it together. Which I'm glad I did, as it turned out to be my best-selling item! (Apologies if you already read it in an earlier post.
There's been A LOT going on in Portland since I emigrated to Britain. It has a thriving arts and comics scene; in fact, such a scene that there's now a whole TV show called Portlandia that parodies the city 'where young people go to retire', 'all the hot girls wear glasses' and 'you can put a bird on something and call it art'. Portland residents have very mixed reactions about the series, it does hit a bit close to the bone (and particularly annoying if your art career involves a lot of birds.) But I love this clip. The '90s are how I remember America, so it's ALL STILL THERE... in Portland! Ha ha...
I was trying to think of things to draw in Seattle when I was trying out encaustic wax painting with my sister, so... yeah. The bird. I think in Britain right now it's unicorns, possibly shifting toward tentacled creatures. There was even a brief period where everyone seemed to put Abraham Lincoln on things.
And here's how it looks if you put three birds at a table. Here I am with my fab table mates, my studio mate Ellen Lindner (ellenlindner) and Cliodhna Lyons (lj user="ztoical">), pronounced 'Kleena'. I sold lots of copies of my new all-ages comic book Vern and Lettuce and generally felt pleased about its US launch.
(Photo by my sister's partner, reporter Mike Lewis)
A big thanks to visitor Linda Wada (who knew of me through British comics creator Garen Ewing), who shot several videos duri
Back to the photos I found when I was back in Seattle recently... Here's one of my all-time best days at school that I can remember as a kid. It was first grade, and our class was making a big papier-mâché elephant for the school auction. We didn't finish painting it grey before recess break, so I begged the teacher to be allowed to stay in the classroom to work on it while the other kids were outside. And she said yes! On the first day of school, I had got myself quite badly and memorably bullied at recess, and I was horribly scared of the other kids. So being able to stay and paint by myself in the classroom - paint something VERY BIG! - had me in a state of complete bliss. I was so proud of that elephant.
My mother saved these; here are some of my very first figure drawings.
And a bit later, here's a landscape I drew of Cannon Beach, on the Oregon coast.
And much older, here's a painting I made as a teenager. I though it was terribly cool, and now I can see just how amusingly of its time it looks.
Above is a vis dev story beat for A Fish Story. For those of you not familiar with the terminology “vis dev” is short for visual development. A “story beat” is an important part of the story…one that “drives the characters”. These are all terms in “previs” which is short for pre-visualization.
My daughter said the drawing reminded her of the “original Cinderella story. You know, the Chinese folktale?” I never heard of this.
Picture book author Tony Johnston has over 125 books for children in her repertoire! She was kind enough to speak at the 2011 Southern California SCBWI Writer’s Day and share her immense knowledge and insight. This was one of the most heartfelt talks I’ve ever been too. Johnston is passionate and moved by her responsibility as a writer.
The following notes were taken during her talk:
Where Do You Find Inspiration?
Let the Feelings Catch You:
The Essence of Childhood:
Be Bold When You Write:
Anyone with children will know the ‘why?’ stage. The child discovers that this tiny word can make an adult talk and talk and talk. The child receives undivided attention because the adult loves to show how much he knows.
‘Isn’t the blossom beautiful?’
‘It’s beautiful so it attracts bees.’
‘To help make more trees, and more blossom.’
‘So that...er...would you like some Gummy Bears?’
It goes on forever. The child isn’t really listening, she’s just enjoying the attention, the love that’s being devoted to her.
Because adults love to explain. Adults want to be able to show they understand and that everything is explicable.
Because adults fear that not knowing means they are stupid. Or that the child will feel rejected. Adults just love to fill silence with sound.
Shut up. I don’t know.
Take the recent riots. How many different explanations did we hear? Left wingers giving left wing explanations (cuts; no jobs; the breakdown of the state). Right wingers giving right wing explanations (bad parenting; nanny state; the breakdown of the family). I am sure many of these views could have been given even before the event.
Question: If there was a riot next week what would be the causes?
The right wingers and the left wingers have already made up their minds. The event itself doesn’t have any relevance.
Young children imagine all adults will give similar answers, that the reasons for something happening are easy for us grown ups to understand. The world is black and white. Up until around the age of seven or eight, if you ask a child whether it is wrong to steal a loaf of bread to feed a starving family, almost every one will give a categorical ‘yes’. It is wrong to steal. Of course it is.
This is one good very reason for giving children a diet of fiction. Children get to hear inside the heads of other people, even if they aren’t real. These imaginary people can hold views that real people may have. And slowly, a child begins to realise that two characters versions of the same event may be very, very different.
As children begin to explore the territory of what makes us the people we are then they can begin to understand that others may be inflexible, or are not even prepared to listen to evidence before coming to conclusions, that sometimes judgements are clouded by temperament, character or emotion.
It’s a giddy experience, the dawning realisation that there may be fewer certainties in the world.
It just is. Now go to bed.Display Comments Add a Comment