Tag Archives: nature

What Goes Up

Sometimes you have to land.

Sometimes you have to land.

This hummingbird lives in one of the aviaries at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum; this picture was taken last Wednesday in the late afternoon. It’s cropped pretty closely and then I played with the color until it matched my mind’s eye a little more closely. The brightness is correct, but I’m afraid the color at the bird’s throat might not be. If this is, as I suspect, an Anna’s hummingbird, the tone should be more purple than red. Still can’t trust the camera. But the untouched image doesn’t come close to demonstrating the brilliant dazzle of a hummingbird in sunlight and this is a little more indicative.

Like the hummingbird, I need to rest between flights. I have a couple more pictures like these, from that same day, which I’ll try to share this week, but I’m taking a little vacation from comics. They’re noisy in my brain and I need some space to think. I want to write a poem, and an article about comics, and finish at least 2 T-shirts, so it’s time to land for a few days. I think I’ll sit on the floor, with a notebook and a pen, and write.

No New Art Today; Here’s an Image

I could have drawn a Dragon Comic about little kids wanting to pick up every single creature they come across but after the nonstop mayhem of my sister’s wedding, my brain is scrambled. I want to sleep, and even if I did draw a comic, I probably wouldn’t be able to upload it, because this hotel has the world’s worst wifi. (I’m using The Man’s hotspot but we have to turn it off soon because data costs money.) Anyway, my eyes are swimming. No drawing today.

Here instead is a photograph I took of some interesting plants growing out of what I assume is a pylon that once supported some kind of dock in Lake Whatcom, which is a funny name if you pronounce it as it’s written. The T, however, is silent: “WA-cum.” I guess it’s a funny name either way.

How long do you have to leave a chunk of wood sticking out of a lake before nature starts to reclaim it?

How long do you have to leave a chunk of wood sticking out of a lake before nature starts to reclaim it?

I had to wade out about 20 feet from the shore to get this shot; I was very cautious with the equipment. I really wish I had a waterproof camera, though, because then I would be showing you some stunning images of dragonflies on lily pads. Trust me, they were beautiful.

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And you forgot the ice water!

And you forgot the ice water!

This is the comic I would have posted last night, had I not been completely road burned from our epic drive through the Tonto Wilderness over the Mogollan Rim. I actually wrote the script last week; and it’s moderately ironic, because The Man and I were hiking in the desert on Sunday and even though we wore sunscreen, we both got burnt. I only burned a little, as my ancestry is Mediterranean and my whiteness comes with a decent amount of melanin all things considered. The Man, however, is of the Nordic persuasion and couldn’t be much whiter if he tried. His sunburn was especially hilarious because he wore a knee brace (on account of the 3 pins he got in his knee after driving a motorcycle into a guard rail) so he has a perfect red circle on his knee, inside a perfect white square. It’s a unique burn.

I helped him with the aloe.

Other than that and perhaps 1 or 2 tiny inconveniences associated with camping in a place with no services, if you catch my meaning (i.e. no plumbing), it was a stellar trip. We saw many wonderful creatures: jackrabbits, quails, egrets, herons, hawks, buzzards, and so on. Fish were literally jumping out of the lake. Flowers were blooming all over the desert. The weather couldn’t have been lovelier; ditto the scenery. We were on the north side of Lake Roosevelt, where no one goes unless they have a boat. We pretty much had to drive down a cow track to get there, and we had an entire cove to ourselves. So that makes up for the lack of plumbing.

Sticks and Thorns Mandala

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It’s a prickly situation

I had intended to post 2 comedic drawings of teddy bears tonight, but I was offered the opportunity of a free sitting with a sought-after photographer, one who usually charges a decent amount of money for people who don’t fit his perfect profile in terms of the models he wants to shoot, and nobody has ever mistaken me for a professional model, so in the interest of feeding my midlife crisis, I decided to do that instead of work, and now it’s after midnight and there’s no time or headspace to finish my weird teddy bears, so here, have a mandala.

This is a very desert-y one, all spiky with wild grasses and dry thorny twigs. It appears flammable. Some of the grasses are probably non-native invasives, whose presence tend to change the character of the desert, and make it more susceptible to uncontrollable wildfire. Usually, they’re pretty prevalent at this point in the season, but it’s been the wettest spring I can remember around here and there’s still plenty of green to choke out the brown.

Roots and Branches Mandala

It's alive!

It’s alive! Alive and full of pointy microscopic tree ejaculate.

Do you know what pollen looks like? It looks like this, which may explain why it hurts so freaking much when you get it in your eyes.

Some people say that the desert is dull and colorless, but this is only because some people only visit the desert in the middle of winter. So, yeah, it’s all tawny and dusty in the middle of winter, but who are you to talk? You came here because it’s all white right now where you came from!

Now spring is a very colorful season in Tucson. There are wildflowers galore, and then every single tree explodes into flower. Imagine that: hills dotted with red, orange, purple; blanketed in yellow and chartreuse. And every last one of them spewing microgametophytes in every direction.

It’s sort of perverted if you think about it.

It’s also debilitating if your immune system treats tree pollen like a deadly pathogen and mounts a full scale defense. Which mine does. And then you take every allergy remedy known to man in an effort to simply breathe. Which I do.

It’s only a couple weeks in a year of generally clean air, but it’s been gradually knocking me over for days, but yesterday and today have been the worst. Last night was almost completely sleepless and today has been a near total loss. I’m barely aware of what I’m writing right now.

And that’s all. And that’s why that’s all.

Quoth the Raven, “Shop My Store”

I overheard Fox telling Otter, “Dragon draws these T-shirt designs but they’re all for girls so we can’t get any.” Gah! Gendered much? OK, fine. I drew this freaking raven, based on a photograph I took at the Grand Canyon. There is nothing girly about this raven with his weird punk rock mohawk head feathers, all right?

This raven is not interested in your problems.

This raven is not interested in your problems.

He’s all dark and brooding and mysterious and whatnot, sitting high above you, looking imperiously down like a king on his throne or something equally majestic.  Ravens are bigger than crows, and somehow more dignified, and they’re so dark that they seem to almost swallow the light into them.

Of all the designs I’ve done so far, this is the first one that really seems to look good on a cell phone case.

Mythologically speaking, Raven is the bringer of knowledge (in the form of light) to mankind; he literally steals what belongs to the gods in order to make it public domain. Raven is a friend to people, and a force to be reckoned with. If you’ve never gotten close up to one of these birds, you’ll be surprised at how large and sturdy they are, almost like raptors in their muscularity. They’re also, when they feel like it, extremely vocal. I believe they can be taught to mimic human speech, but even in their own tongue, you can get a conversation going. I’ve had long back and forth exchanges with chatty ravens, some of them rather far away. If you hear a raven, call back and pretty often it will answer you, even if you can’t see it.

The Desert Explodes in Glorious Technicolor

For ten years, I’ve lived in the Sonoran Desert, where we enjoy 330 days of sunshine every year. It may be hot, but it is also beautiful, full of sharp contrasts and luscious details.

This agave had reached the end of its life cycle. After sending up the shoot and flowering, the plant will die, but for a brief, breathtaking moment, it resembles a flaming torch.

If all else fails, you can always make tequila.

If all else fails, you can always make tequila.

This drawing is based on a photograph I took over the summer; I had a 2-day window in which this plant exhibited these gorgeous colors. In fact, I wanted to paint a hibiscus today, but I couldn’t lay my hands on the right reference image.

This lovely design is available for purchased on a variety of fine products in my shop.

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OK, I love this comic. I mean, I must have rewritten Rabbit’s dialog in the 2nd panel 12 times, and I’m still not completely satisfied, but this is precisely what I want to be doing: talking about serious things, and then flipping a switch and falling into a punchline.

This is another best viewed as large as your monitor can handle it, particularly the last panel.

When you don't wear clothes, body paint is pretty much the only way to add color to your wardrobe.

When you don’t wear clothes, body paint is pretty much the only way to add color to your wardrobe.

If you are not familiar with the work of Mondrian, check out this quick GIS. You’ve probably seen it, even if you don’t know his name. In fact, I’m only familiar with his name because I was on the forensics team in high school, in the “oral interpretation” division (i.e. reading out loud) and one of my pieces was Harlan Ellison’s “‘Repent, Harlequin,’ said the Ticktockman,” in which Mondrian is a summation of all that’s wrong with a rigid and orderly mandate in a modern, automated world. I’m not fond of the aesthetic myself.

Of course, Rabbit is adorning Dragon with the iconic image of Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night,” which most people are more familiar with. I have the print hanging on my bedroom door. I’ve also seen it held out as a piece beloved by people who took one art class in college and haven’t looked at a painting since then, but, obviously, I don’t have any space to be snooty about art. It’s a beautiful painting even divorced of meaning, and it had a lot of personal meaning for me. It very much is a work that, to me, expresses the kind of deep connection to the universe, intertwined with awe and wonder for the universe, that I feel when I look at a sunset or a storm cloud.

I learned a lot from studying Van Gogh’s “Blue Irises in a Yellow Vase“; from copying “The Starry Night” I basically learned how freaking amazing Van Gogh was. Do you have any idea how many colors there are in this picture? A lot. Even looking at a very good copy (I recall seeing 3D reproductions that actually used scanning technology to recreate his brushstrokes) you don’t see as deeply into the nuances as you do when you get down to the pixels. Wow. Just wow. I spent more time on “The Starry Night” than I did on anything else this week.

Side Trip to a Big Hole

My traveling companion wanted to meet up with an old friend she hadn’t seen in 30 years. He works as a singing cowboy on the Grand Canyon Railroad and she is interviewing people about the intersection between art and culture. Normally, I wouldn’t spend that much time away from my desk on writing retreat, but this promised to be a special sojourn.

Singing cowboys for the win! The one on the right is my friend's friend, and he was very wonderful.

Singing cowboys for the win! The one on the right is my friend’s friend, and he was very wonderful.

My friend’s friend got us on the train for free, for which I was grateful. It’s a pricey experience, even at the lower levels of luxury, and the train takes about 3 times as long as it would to drive (135 minutes to go 65 miles). Since we were friends with the cowboy, we got some freebies and were able to hang out on the back of the caboose and watch the track peel away behind us, which I have wanted to do my entire life. (Yes, it was everything I envisioned.)

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No picture of the Grand Canyon does it justice, which basically makes my attempts to sketch it kind of futilely hilarious.

While my friend went off to reminisce about the old times and do some preliminary interviewing, I walked along the rim a bit and did a little writing and a lot of sketching. The problems with sketching the Grand Canyon are a) it’s huge, b) there’s a lot going on visually, and c) the shadows change every 15 seconds.

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Sorry about this reproduction. I very seriously considered bringing the scanner with me to Flagstaff. I would have used it! But I was afraid it would get hurt/broken.

The Grand Canyon is an impressionist’s fantasy. It’s all light and shadow. It was hard to render in pencil. When I did try to focus on the dark parts, the clouds kept moving, so the dark parts kept changing. I’m not dissatisfied with this attempt. If I had kept at it longer, I think it would have improved. The digital drawing tablet might have rendered better results, but the sun shone too brightly to really use the computer.

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The shadow knows…

After I got frustrated with the first sketch, I mailed some postcards to my nephews and sat down in a different place, thinking of focusing on a smaller section of the landscape. Before I started, I noticed that the tree above me cast some interesting shadows on the paper, and I decided to just draw the shadows, as an easier exercise. My sketch is not quite as awesome as the shadows were, plus you can see through to the next page. Oh, well.

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A few details

Then I decided to focus on one tiny canyon, which you can see in the middle, before getting distracted by some interesting trees. The trees are not bad for the time spent.

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Tiny details

Here I try a couple views of a squashed pine cone and a bit of pine that fell on the walkway. All in all, I’m really glad I went, but maybe I shouldn’t have walked so much. I could have gotten more accomplished.

The Trickster’s Hat Part 10

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Van Gogh’s iconic painting of Blue Irises in a Yellow Vase

It’s a really striking image, and much-copied. I love the thickness of the brush strokes, the boldness of the color.

My Blue Irises in a Yellow Vase.

My Blue Irises in a Yellow Vase.

Exercise 31 involved learning from others: pick a famous work, study it, learn from it, duplicate it, and then expand the project in some logical way. The example in the book suggested visiting a ballet school if, for example, your famous work was one of Degas’s.

Drawn fast, larger than actual size.

Drawn fast, larger than actual size.

For my extension, I visited the nearby Tucson Botanical Gardens and sketched flowers.

This is a hibiscus that lives in the greenhouse.

This is a hibiscus that lives in the greenhouse.

I like the rougher look to Van Gogh’s work, how it seems sloppy, but it’s not. The colors weren’t really available to me with the materials at hand, but some of them made a nice showing there, anyway.

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Orchids are hard; I’ve been trying to draw a passable orchid for years. I sketched this one slowly and then took it home to use the pastels. Somehow it looks meaty, rather than delicate, and I’m afraid there’s something the slightest bit obscene about it. Orchids are complicated.

Sketching in the gardens was so enjoyable. It’s definitely the sort of thing I want to incorporate into my artist’s life to a much greater degree.

 

The final flower

The final flower