Chewing The Fat: Self Image’s Heavy Impact

(This story is also featured on LinkedIn:


A year ago, I succumbed to the Gym Dragon. Roughly three times a week, I pay my tithes by working out for an hour or two, lifting weights and riding a recumbent bike.

I didn’t start a committed exercise regimen for superficial reasons, not primarily, at least. I injured my L5-S1 disc around two years ago and, as a result, I feel constant pain throughout the left side of my back. Having done three rounds of physical therapy in the past four years, twice for this issue, I found the most effective routine any therapist set up for me was the vigorous and extensive one that pushed me to my limits (in terms of energy, not pain). Considering the variety of exercises I needed to continually perform in order to succeed, a gym membership just made sense. A gymnasium would have the proper equipment, space and external motivation I needed to heal. Of course, I’ve been broke for years, so money was my primary deterrent. However, when I was at an animal fundraising event last year, and got to spin a wheel to get a deal for a membership with the Rochester Athletic Club, I finally gave in.

My doctor had told me that I would only stop being in pain once I lost a considerable amount of weight, so that has been a major goal I tiptoe towards every time I work out. Lifestyle changes paired with constant mindfulness are part of that deal, of course, but the Swole Lord hasn’t taken me over yet.

Some people do treat the gym like sacred ground, and exercise to those folks can be a religious experience. Fortunately, since this is a women’s gym, there tends to be more support and compassion and less competition or showboating. Though I have heard some stupid, stupid comments from people all over the age spectrum and get ticked off when I see one of the spoiled college kids just sitting on the machines, texting, pretending to do a set every 5-10 minutes. (There is only so much room and so many machines, you’d think courtesy and efficiency would be common sense.) I’m just looking to reduce pain, get in shape (“round” only takes you so far), maybe have another outlet, and possibly even help reduce my depression some days. These goals are not met every single time, and it is unrealistic to expect them to be. What keeps me going, ultimately, is my need to heal. Chronic pain can be incredibly limiting and debilitating, making your problems worse and even triggering depression. Funny how mental health ties in with exercise so much, isn’t it? Well, the body and mind are intimately linked, which brings me to the heart of what I want to discuss.

I read an inspiring article by Buzzfeed’s Isaac Fitzgerald during Body Positivity Week. Fitzgerald’s raw and uninhibited story about growing up with some extra chunk, and the psychological effects poor self image can have on you throughout your life hit me uncomfortably close to home. When I was 14 through 15, I was crash dieting, bordering on anorexia so I could fit in and be considered pretty to my classmates. Of course, like Fitzgerald, I never felt beautiful inside. To the people like us, here is another story I hope you relate to, and the lessons I hope to pass on to you, so you can make better choices than I did. Mostly, to love yourself and get help from people who know what they’re doing and understand what you’re going through.

Since I was 8, I have struggled with my weight. There is definitely an issue of control that is intimately tied in with ones eating habits. I was miserable at school until I went to college, always being a misfit or new kid, so the slight joy and instant gratification I got from eating or drinking sweets was nothing to be taken lightly. Level of physical activity often shifted, too, depending on where we were living and how many hours of Nintendo/Sega/Playstation I could squeeze in every week. I never liked sports and am introverted. Again, I never really had many friends, and was often reserved, since I had an issue articulating the letter “r” until I was 10 and my voice matured, so any escape or outlet I could find, I leapt on. I had gone to three preschools and three elementary schools (my parents divorced when I was 7 or 8, so we moved a few times and never had a ton of money while we were with Mom), so any consistency and pleasure I could find were rare alcoves of peace for me.

The worst I ever got was during high school.

By age 15, I was down to 130 pounds, maybe less. Now, that may sound like an average weight, but I’m 5’8”, with shoulders and hips that can attest to my big boned-ness, and was still not “overweight” when I was at 180 during senior year, as my doctor reassured me, with slight concern in her eyes when I voiced my fear. (The lesson here: BMI is not right. Age, muscle mass, bone structure, sex and a variety of other factors determine if you’re healthy. At best, the Body Mass Index is an overgeneralized ballpark figure meant to help you get to a healthier weight.)

Depression and anxiety reared their ugly heads through all of this, since I was still mourning my father’s death and poorly adjusting to life back with my mother. Mom had already been locked involuntarily in mental health inpatient several times due to late onset schizophrenia. She had been forced to live with her abusive father and domineering, tactless stepmother. Stability, security and support were gone from all of our lives after Dad died, and we were just trying to navigate through the broken pieces. After my sister left for college, and the jerk wads at Oswego High School called me fat and ugly and said there was something wrong with me within earshot one too many times, I sought control over my unstable, miserable life. I had no real guidance, no support system, no one to really talk to who actually got what I was going through. Actually, to be honest, I still feel like that the majority of the time.

For the longest time, we were taught to keep hush hush about Mom’s illness, and suppress everything so as not to upset her and make her feel guilty. I think I internalized that lesson with Dad’s death, and it took my sister sitting me down, with her arms around mine, and telling me, “You didn’t mourn when Dad died. That is what this is.” Yeah, it was the unhealthiest thing to not talk about anything that mattered, Dad’s death or Mom’s illness. Everything was kept so tightly inside that I had severe anxiety in school, and until senior year, I was quiet because I felt like I would burst into tears if I had to say anything. Having a teacher who repeatedly got up in my face and told me to speak in class never helped, either, and I deeply resented her for doing that. When I started opening up about everything, it was like coming out. Though it made all my peers feel awkward and uncomfortable and no one could relate to what I had been through and I still felt ostracized, revealing the truth took a massive weight off my shoulders.

My nails were brittle, my energy was low and, as with most teens, my moods went through rapid cycles of high highs and low lows throughout the day. My outsides, thin and pale, matched my insides: frail, damaged, just wanting to be accepted.

It got to the point where my sister threatened to force feed me Crisco if I lost any more weight.

Eventually, I think I just got hungry again. Plus, as an honors student, I had tons of homework and little sleep, so weight gain was inevitable, particularly after I ended up on a cocktail of medications senior year. That was when I had finally gone to see a psychiatrist, and hadn’t yet learned that they tend to drug you up to your eyelids for every feeling you have, which wasn’t helped by my combo of PTSD-like issues from Mom’s latest psychotic break and the med students’ disease I “contracted” after learning about schizophrenia and mental illnesses in AP Psych. But THAT story is an extensive one we’ll have to save for another day.

The worst part of the skinny days was: I felt prettiest when I was hungry. It was a means of control over myself and my life, a way to fit in. Now, any rational adult knows that thinking along the lines of, I don’t want to be healthy, I want to be skinny, is like saying “I don’t want to be smart, I want to be stupid.” Logic and rationality in high school, however, are sparse. Even smart kids do stupid shit.

For years, my self-esteem, self-image and body image were abysmal. When I was 18 or freshly 19, I reveled when an ugly creeper in Sarasota, Florida told me I was beautiful. I bashfully smiled. No guy had ever said anything like that to me before.  Of course, the situation quickly escalated to his following me as I walked, then holding my hand and trying to move his hand to the small of my back and onto my butt. Fortunately, he didn’t follow me when I ducked into the Kmart I was heading to. Foolish me could have had something very bad happened to her.

Looking back on those times, there are several things I wish I could go back and tell myself. Likewise, with health and exercise, there things I have to keep telling myself.

Your weight, your height and your shape do not determine your value. Comments like, “She’d be hot without glasses,” or, “She looks thin from the side,” or, the best one, “She’s still fat!” screamed from afar by a jealous, awkwardly triangular bimbo, never reinforce that fact, though. There are a lot of things I would like to change about myself, inside and out. Though, I have accepted certain aspects of myself. I am big boned; I have curves and wider hips. These are not undesirable traits. In fact, a lot of men like strong, tall, intelligent and independent woman. I wouldn’t want to be with someone who wants me meek and subservient. Furthermore, curves and proportions, from an evolutionary standpoint, are desirable traits, because they suggest that you are healthy and a good mate to start a family with.

But being fat? Verboten.

Here’s the truth: skinny does not equal healthy or even attractive. You can be a scrawny kid inhaling Cheetos and gulping down Mountain Dew while playing video games 12 hours a day, every day and have a heart attack at 25, or you can be a little bit bulky but active, eat fairly healthy and be considered a model of health internally. Everyone is different, and the only constant is the benefit of being good to your body.

Small, gradual changes made over time are much more likely to be maintained than rapid weight loss or muscle gain. That’s how exercise, lifestyle changes and weight loss works, when done effectively. As gym teachers used to tell us insecure teens, when you go on a crash diet, severely reducing your food intake, your body will actually gain weight when you start to eat again, I think to 1.5 times of what you weighed before you started dieting, because, when your body is deprived of food, it naturally stores fat and carbs and sugars and calories as energy. (The silver lining is that, if you need to start going to the gym to lose weight, your body is full of power just waiting to be tapped into.) You slow your metabolism by depriving your body of sustenance, too. You could even end up with weak bones and be in frequent pain later in life.

Though muscle is denser than fat, being more muscular actually revs up your metabolism and allows you to shed more fat than dieting or basic cardio. However, if you push yourself too hard while working out your body actually burns muscle, so stay in your target heart rate. Weight lifting should be in your routine, but you want to do cardio a few times a week along with weights to help boost your endurance and keep your high-strung, caffeine-addled heart healthy.

Also, carbs are good for giving you energy before exercising, not all fat in food is created equally, and sugar and carbs turn to fat, so low fat food isn’t always the best answer. Protein helps build muscle, so fish, beans and Greek yogurt all work well (though can get expensive). Stress, meds, sleep deprivation, hormonal changes and genetics all effect weight, and you do weigh different amounts throughout the day, so, if you insist on weighing yourself frequently, do it at the same time of day. Measure success by increase in strength and endurance, not primarily by weight lost. Muscle is denser than fat so it is possible to gain weight before losing some, especially if you’re just working with a few vanity pounds. Healthy trumps skinny every time. Exercise can boost your mood, but work out so you can eat a burger or candy bar, not in addition to constantly avoiding anything with fat or calories.

I have to keep reminding myself that food is primarily fuel. It takes effort and mindfulness to be disciplined and accountable, to consider how much time I have to exercise in order to eat a certain item without gaining weight. When I feel like Lieutenant Lardo, I try to work out or at least go for a walk. And, yes, not all foods are created equal, as anyone who has ever read a listicle knows. Some foods are healthier than others, and there are some major ones to eat and others to avoid. But then, there are horrible days when I eat my misery and am bloated with discontent. Vanilla custard with hot fudge, brownies, malted milk balls and whipped cream, all paired with a pickle was my most recent overindulgence (turns out, the ice-cream-and-pickles combo IS delicious), and these human moments turn cheat day into a month of repentance for those with addictive or obsessive personalities.

As I said in the beginning of this post, I’ve been going to the gym for about a year now. I’m definitely stronger and more muscular. I can actually see the contours of my oblique muscles when I look in the mirror, and find myself ogling them on occasionally. But I am still fat, and I will have a lot of extra skin in the end. The most frustrating part of all this is that my back is still in some amount of pain constantly, despite NSAIDs, nerve meds, lifestyle and dietary changes. (You can take my lattes and desserts when you pry them from my cold, dead hands. A few extra hours at the gym are much easier than severely limiting the wonderful flavors of life.)

The pain still exists, and some days are much worse than others. But I am noticeably stronger and have better endurance. I can bounce around for a couple of hours at the various charity and community events I take part in, and I can leg press 320 pounds, whereas I went to the hospital this past Christmas because I was immobilized, screaming and crying from the pain (that would be a 10/10 in terms of pain, for those of you keeping track at home). I still have stiff areas, rolls of fat, weak body points, muscle knots, reduced range of motion and mobility some days. Think of how Dr. Gregory House limps – that’s me on a bad day, due to the sciatica. I am, ever so slowly, healing, but I have such a long way to go. And, I admit, that fact can be incredibly discouraging some days.

The gym is not meant to be a place where you go to punish your body for its imperfections, or be the where people gather to improve their young and pretty façades, as dictated by society. I’m working to heal, physically, emotionally, even spiritually. It’s an endurance run.

One underlying problem still remains, though. I rarely consider myself beautiful. I am often paranoid about what others say or think of me, and feel self-conscious about how I look or how I’m presenting myself far too often. Once learned, these insecurities are always there in one form or another; they just morph in design and degree.

Eating an extra piece of cake once in a while will not make you ugly, but I can guarantee that thinking poorly of yourself all of the time will prevent you from being beautiful.

Posted in Anorexia, Body, Body and Mind, Body Image, Body Positivity, Body Shaming, Chronic Pain, Diet, Eating Disorders, Eating Habits, Emotional Outlets, Endurance, Exercise, Fat, Fat Shaming, Fitness, Gym, Health, Hindsight, Insecurities, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Changes, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Muscle Growth, Perspective, Physical Outlets, Self Control, Self Esteem, Self Image, Uncategorized, Wellness | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Art Critique: The Bear Video

Welcome back to Katie’s Critique Corner.

Today I am putting the video I made to promote the CURE Childhood Cancer Association‘s upcoming 5K Run & Fun Walk under the microscope for analysis.

While poring over the details of this project, as one must when editing, I kept seeing parts I could improve upon. Likewise, having watched the completed project around 50 times at this point (I worked hard on this, I’m entitled to some self-indulgence),  I found several bits I wanted to change after the fact. I figure it would be best to channel my obsessive, perfectionist tendencies into something constructive, so I will do just that.

The individual components worked well together, making the overall product something I am quite proud of. And yes, that includes the part at the end with the bear shaking its booty (I do wish the tail wagged more, but it was windy and the costume is a cheap Pooh Bear knockoff that’s simultaneously baggy and too small, so what we ended up with is fine.) Everything came together in a way that ensured the parts were not greater than the whole, and, I must admit, serendipity played a big part in the production process. That is a lesson worth remembering: have a general idea when starting a project, but don’t overplan and end up not willing to compromise your original vision. Creation is an organic process, meaning that a bunch of aha! moments will occur throughout the production cycle as you find new components to integrate into your product, bits that give the project additional meaning and depth.

Allow me to clarify: originally, I was working on giving the bear a neck so mine would not constantly be exposed to the kids at events (no one needs to see a bare bear). Again, the head is an inexpensive thing that we picked off the rack at a costume shop. It’s essentially a pillow in the front with two eye holes that allow less visibility than most mascot suits (which is not much — think no peripheral vision and limited depth perception, not to mention tons of blind spots, particularly where little kids tend to be). Moreover, the back of the head is little more than a few layers of fabric. So, I seek to find any way I can improve upon Beary and keep him lasting a bit longer.

After a few days of war with the sewing machine, I put together a neck dickey for the bear, complete with Velcro. For me, the accomplishment was akin to having one of your characters from The Sims gain a skill point.

I wanted to test out the new head to make sure it worked well and wouldn’t suffocate me (you sweat about 10 times harder in those suits than you do after a vigorous workout at the gym). Since the 5K is coming up, and I was thinking of ways to help boost the morale of our friends Lynne and Randy, who have been at the hospital for more the 80 days due to Randy’s severe health problems, I figured it could be cute to have a photo shoot of the bear practicing for the race.

Initially, I was planning on pinning a purple headband to the bear and taking a couple of shots of him stretching and jogging, but then I thought we could do a little video, too, to psyche everyone up for the event and give them a little chuckle. A cute little kid-friendly video that I could add some graphics to that would promote the event.

So, my boyfriend and I headed to a scenic path down the street from us, and, after a few minutes of discussing the plan and making directorial choices, we did a few takes. Here I have to say major thanks to Nick Hadad for shooting this with me in the frigid cold as the sun was going down. It takes a real man to run down the canal path with a giant teddy bear.

I had Nick running with me, recording a tracking shot as I did a high-knee jog. (And no, the bear will not be running in the race. The heat would be too intense in the suit, and the best I can muster for cardio is a recumbent bike, so running and walking prolonged distances is too difficult and painful for me at this time.)

We got the shot done and sent out some teaser images on Facebook that night.

Then I aggravated myself for the next 24 hours, trying to figure out the best platforms to upload the videos to. I needed something that I could combine slides, videos and public domain music on, and a site that would be appropriate to upload them to (more on the details of all of that in a minute). I finally uploaded the videos using Google Drive, converted them to WVA files, edited everything together in Windows Movie Maker and uploaded the finished product to Vimeo. By the time I had figured out how to get the videos uploaded and converted to the proper format for the correct program, I had fleshed out the style, theme and every other detail of the finished project in my mind, so everything was easy flying from then on.

Now, the music. I knew I wanted to use public domain music, because any potential copyrighted material, or what certain sites perceive as copyrighted material, can be taken down instantaneously by YouTube with its rampant content ID claims. Though fair use should come into play, and this video is not, directly, for profit (though boosting public interest in CURE, thus increasing proceeds for the nonprofit’s event is, of course, a desired outcome), First Amendment rights are not inherent on YouTube, at least not until the  undetermined amount of time when YouTube workers can check the validity of such claims or the claims go past their expiration date or whatever the hell happens. Either way, the whole setup is stupid and infringes on the rights of (and potential revenue for) people who create content, so I chose to use Vimeo, allowing the video to be accessible to everyone and not immediately taken down.

I forget the order in which everything played out, but I knew I wanted to use public domain music, so I went to look at a list of such songs. “Teddy Bears’ Picnic” popped up, and I thought “yes!” and downloaded a 1930s Henry Hall recording of the song (which YouTube immediately labeled copyrighted material — an 80-plus-year-old recording. Guess each cover of a public domain song counts as copyrighted material and is restricted from fair use, regardless of what is legally permissible as such.) I realized that, A) The “Gruntilda’s Lair” theme from Banjo-Kazooie was inspired by this song and B) The Wizard of Oz song “We’re Off To See The Wizard” has sections that sound remarkably similar to “Teddy Bears’ Picnic,” and the event is themed “lions and tigers and bears” from The Wizard of Oz, so that all fit together perfectly, without my immediately realizing it.

Because I was using public domain music, I thought it would be fun to run with the old-timey theme. Therefore, I used the old age film effect in Movie Maker for the opening text, and put a sepia filter over the actual video to make it fit in with the overall audio and visual style. Doing this fused all components into one cohesive narrative. I intentionally kept the bear butt shake at the end in color, as it is a jarring contrast from the rest of the video. Thinking further about it now, I realize it is also in keeping with the Wizard of Oz theme. The movie starts out in sepia and transforms into a world bursting with color. It all fit together before I was even conscious of just how well everything gelled.

Well, that’s the story behind the video and how I came up with the concept. So now lets dive into the actual critique.

The negatives: In retrospect, I wish I had put the opening text in an early 20th century font to better fit with the slides’ old age film effect. Also, it has been difficult to find a precise number, but I wonder about the length of time I should have kept the text on screen. I believe the rule of thumb would be 1/2 to a whole second per word, as long as the word isn’t long like subcutaneous or gubernatorial. I saw one site mention that you should be able to read the text 3 times. Ultimately, I think the opening text is on screen long enough, though I could have kept the CURE banner with the event info up longer, but that would have involved further editing the music, which would have thrown the pacing off for the surprise ending, and since comedy is heavily reliant on timing, I think it’s all right as is. Plus, anyone could stop the video to read all the info, or look in the video’s description, or click the link to the event’s info page I put in the description, so I covered my bases. The timing is slightly off in a few spots, though it is literally split-second things that most people probably wouldn’t think twice about. I’m not sure if I like how the music starts (I took a light instrumental clip from the middle of the song, thinking that it would be a calm, gentle opening, because the original opening to the Henry Hall version is disconcerting). Again, it’s a 1/2 second or less at the start, but I think it could have been cleaned up for a smoother introduction. I tried to switch the text during each crescendo (sorry if that’s not the right term, I have virtually no musical vocabulary), though I feel the “prepare” slide could have come in a little later than it did. However, I do think each slide of text had decent screen time. Next, you can see the jump cuts. I did try to incorporate the music into the transitions to make them less off-putting, and the shaky camera and less-than-perfect video quality actually proved beneficial here. Also, as Nick pointed out to me, it really is like an old movie that would have frames missing and a grainy quality. This was shot in hand, as opposed to on a dolly, obviously, but I have no major qualms with how the footage came out. Though, you do see the scenery repeating (that same shed and picnic table), so for the next multimedia project, preferably not when it’s near freezing, we will definitely shoot more footage. Depending on how familiar and keen observers are with mascot heads, you may notice that I adjust the bear’s head twice at the end of the running segment. It could look like the bear is wiping off sweat, especially the second time, but I know better. Unfortunately, as I said, we did not take enough video, so I had to edit and reuse, and it was hard to find bits that were decent and far enough away from the starting point. Also, you can kind of tell that the bear stops running right before the CURE banner appears, which seems cruddy of the bear, considering this is supposed to be for a 5K, but, again, limited video and knee-high jogging in the cold, so I used what I had. Finally, I might have preferred to have the bear booty on a 1/4 of a second sooner to fit a smidgen better with the trombone, but it’s so close that half the time I can’t even tell if it needs it.

The positives: overall, the visuals and audio sync up well. Though you can tell a jump cut occurs at :21, the bear’s legs and feet move in line with the instrumental peaks. Similar thing at :32, in which I got the position of the bear much closer to the previous frame, despite the obvious change in lighting. I also love the multiple angles Nick used. Running alongside the bear against the sunset is great symbolism for this event. I had been toying with revealing the bear later, at the word “surprise,” but I think what we ended up with works just as well. As I said, the vintage sepia visuals paired with the ragtime music created a strong overall theme and produced a quirky narrative. The bear starts running right when the audio makes a noise (the cymbal) similar to a popgun being shot at the beginning of a race (though, again, I do wonder if I should have shown the bear running a split second sooner than that, as he is eager to take off).

Overall, I am happy with the final product, though, as you have read, there are many aspects I could improve upon. I will carry this knowledge with me to my future projects, building upon what I have learned and continuing to improve my craft.

That’s exactly what I mean when I say “scumble on.”

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CURE Bear Necessities

Let’s face it: I’m a rare breed to come up with ideas like these. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is up for debate.

CURE 5K Bear Video from Katie Gill on Vimeo.

Best video I’ve done yet? Perhaps, perhaps. Gave me a decent chuckle. This is a promo video I made for an upcoming CURE Childhood Cancer Association event. I wrote details in the video’s description over on Vimeo. (By the way, Google Drive and Windows Movie Maker are great for projects like this.)

See you again soon. Scumble on.

Posted in Advertising, Animals, Art, Art Blog, Art Projects, Cancer, Cancer Charity, Cancer Nonprofit, Causes, Childhood Cancer, Comedy, Marketing, Mascots, Media, Multimedia, Music, Nonprofits, Promotions, Public Relations, Western NY Artists | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Scumbling With Another

Hey, everyone. Just want to drop in and let you know that, since I have been having a lot of thoughts and ideas that expand well beyond the outer limits of anything vaguely relating to the arts, I have started writing posts over on LinkedIn. Granted, I could have just made another blog with WordPress, but I was being lazy, and the alternative social media platform lets me focus more on text and less on visuals and SEO, thus allowing me to display the broader range of my writing abilities and interests to prospective employers. So, to distinguish between the two: arts are here, non-art-related material is over there. Though, with life imitating art and vice versa, one will inevitably inform the other at times, and content from one will bleed over to the other. It’s a good thing.

You can find the two posts I have written so far (and plan to update and revise) at I will write another, about how jaded I am with politics, in the next day or so.

I do plan to write that post about cat videos and memes soon, hopefully by the time Lollypop Farm’s Tails Of Hope Marathon happens (it all ties in, you’ll see). Also, I have a very belated guest post to write about Irish music for my friend’s blog, Tuning Into The Obscure.

So, that’s the gist of what’s been going in with me. As always, follow me on Twitter @CaffeinatedKid for additional content and updates.

Thanks, everyone. Scumble on.


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Video Update

A quick update about things to come and what has been going on behind the scenes. Sorry about the subpar lighting and delightful cover image. That’s what I get for recording on my phone after dark and having my computer forbid me from accessing my YouTube and Google accounts. Some days, I feel like a confused old person around new technology.

Anyways, a thoughtful post about cat videos up next.

Scumble on.

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Review: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Full disclosure: I am a Tina Fey fan. I will watch anything she is in, and read as much of what she has written as I can get my hands on. Furthermore, I studied journalism in college, so it was inevitable that I would be drawn to Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not a fan of everything Fey has done. For example, though she and Amy Poehler are indisputable queens of comedy, not to mention versatile actresses and writers, Baby Mama did nothing for me. The characters were more prominent than the plot, and the whole setup felt better suited for a 5-minute skit than a feature-length film. There wasn’t much substance, and the jokes were overwhelmingly obnoxious and juvenile, usually revolving around the done-to-death odd couple motif. There was a love interest for both women and everyone got a happy ending. Yawn.

The antithesis can be said for Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.


First off, the trailer does nothing for the film. I mean, the abbreviation is WTF, for crying out loud. “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” is an inside joke, it is how people in the military say “what the f***?” Maybe the writers used this familiar slang as a way to help pull people in with an easy laugh. Nonetheless, if you were to go into the theater assuming the trailer was an accurate depiction of the movie, you would think this is supposed to be some screwball comedy, a send-up of cultures clashing, or another story about a wacky American boob in a foreign land.

I was skeptical going in, hoping for better, for more, since this is a movie about a war correspondent that stars one of comedy’s leading ladies. And apparently it’s based on a book, The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

No matter your preconceptions about Fey or the film, you will be surprised.

Fey plays Kim Ba(r)ker, (the real life reporter and author of The Taliban Shuffle is Kim Barker) a New York reporter stuck in a rut. When an opportunity for change presents itself, Baker leaps on it and goes into Afghanistan as a 2002 war correspondent. What follows is anything but stupid slapstick and predictable plot points.

We are introduced to Baker during a wild party. Everyone is drinking and dancing under bright lights and loud music. Suddenly, a bomb drops, and all of her crew members are on the front lines. Fey’s character becomes a wordsmith of swears when a local starts harassing her. (I’m not gonna lie: this part won me over.)

And the laughs do keep coming throughout the movie, thoughtful, situational and unanticipated jokes that make you laugh out loud. There are, however, sober undertones throughout the film. These two components, introduced early, let the audience know that this is a movie for adults and not another silly rom com. This is a sophisticated tale, and proves to be Fey’s best role yet.

The film is genuinely intelligent and poignant. It lifts you up, but also forces you to think. Every time I anticipated an event or joke, I was pleasantly surprised. This wasn’t another ha ha fest, this was a grounded story based in the Middle East.

If you don’t see the movie in theaters, you will be missing out, as the visual and aural sensations are best experienced in an immersive atmosphere, where you can get a sense of what it could feel like to be in a hostile foreign territory, as a women reporter in a patriarchal society.

Baker stays in Afghanistan until 2006, after attention to the war in Afghanistan has waned and America becomes fixated on Iraq and Iran. Her story, however, is far from over. You will have to go see the movie for yourself to find out what happens.

The rest of the cast are as great as Fey. Everything from location to writing, acting, and directing in this movie is top-notch in my book. Billy Bob Thornton does a standout job in his supporting role as a Marine General, and the rest of the reporting crew is superb, as well. Everything in this movie comes together perfectly to create a cohesive, gripping tale.

There are no major clichés or predictable moments. Yes, Baker does have a love interest, but that remains a subplot and not the major focus of the film. In fact, all of Baker’s relationships serve to further define her and catalyze her evolution as a character.

Comedic, clever and thought-provoking, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is absolutely a movie you’ll want to see multiple times in order to absorb everything that is going on and appreciate the subject’s implications about current events. If you want a sense of what hard news international journalists go through, you will be surprised and satisfied with this movie.

So, the lesson to take away is: don’t rely on your assumptions, because a work of art, no matter how tired its premise may be, can surprise you. (Did I mention that my next post revolves around cat videos?)

Until next time, film buffs and Fey aficionados: scumble on.

Posted in American Diplomacy, American Middle Eastern Relations, Art, Art Blog, Art Criticism, Art Review, Comedy, Comedy Writing, Critique, FIlm, Film as Social Commentary, Film Reviews, Media, Multimedia, Social Commentary, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Precision View of the Past

With age comes wisdom, and a 6 year span can feel like two lifetimes.

The other day, I was thinking: if I could go back in time, what would I do differently? What events or mistakes would I warn my younger self about?

Depending on how far back I could go, there would be a couple of obvious choices I would make. Force Dad to see a doctor so his skin cancer gets caught before it’s out of control. Reconnect with Mom and make sure she stays on her antipsychotics no matter what. Have housing and services set up for her before I go to college, and never let her move down to Florida with her sister’s family.

Considering that I started this blog back in 2009, when I was in my junior year at SUNY Brockport, it’s fitting that I address a wide-eyed Katie who recently graduated. So teens and younger 20-somethings, listen up, because some of these hard-learned lessons could apply to you.

Things I Would Tell Fresh-Out-Of-College Katie

(In no particular order)

  • Welcome to life: you’re on your own. You are your only reliable solution to any problem. Don’t get me wrong, Nick and Barb prove, time and again, that they are your family. They stand besides you, like a team of Power Rangers ready for action, when shit hits the fan. Every time. However, you will find that even many”professionals” are unreliable, incompetent, inaccessible, irresponsible, inconsiderate, disrespectful and indifferent, even — or should I say especially? — during your darkest hour of need. Trust your instincts, you have decent ones, though you can always refine them. The only accountable party guaranteed to follow through on anything important is you. You must only rely on yourself. There will be people who want to help, but they are rare gems, and deserve your utmost respect and admiration. In fact, always show them your appreciation and do your best to emulate them. They are the people you want in your life and the kind of person you should strive to be.
  • Speaking of friends and family, the two groups are one and the same. Though you probably knew this long ago, it bears repeating. True friends and family are synonymous; they are the people who show up as soon as something bad happens, ask for details, ask what they can do to help and instinctively do the things that will help. They’re good people, who understand what tough times are. Don’t forget this, and be family to as many people you encounter as possible. Small acts always matter.
  • Take whatever job you can get. Yes that means retail, if necessary. No dilly-dallying with this one, hit the ground running and make sure you have a reliable source of income. People with 20+ years of experience are competing with a bunch of people like you for entry level, low wage jobs.
  • Invest in what matters — people, animals, experiences, education, basic needs. These are the only things that are worth the money. Well, these and an occasional coffee.
  • Don’t be fooled, even at high-cost chiropractic offices, secretaries are often only offered about 25 cents above minimum wage to start. Likewise, the majority of jobs that are available will be part time, and the majority of health care offices are overcrowded and understaffed.
  • Get a car and license pronto. Even minimum wage secretary and administrative assistant positions require you to have your own vehicle, despite your access to any other reliable transportation. Don’t lose your independence and have to rely on others.
  • Don’t waste money on doctor’s visits, medications or late-night/expensive Wegmans food. Healthcare costs are insane.
  • Never get a colonoscopy without a blood oath from all involved parties that requires them to knock you out before they shove anything up there. *Shudders*
  • Lose weight! I’m convince the Paxil and the other incident are what caused you to gain the massive amount that you’re currently holding. Get a membership to the Rochester Athletic Club and go at least three times a week. Trust me, this is a routine and habit you must keep for your health! Gain muscle with the weight machines and do cardio regularly. Muscle burns more calories than fat. Eat food with protein — tuna and greek yogurt are two of your go to’s. Seriously, future Katie sustains multiple back injuries, and eventually injures a disk, leaving her in constant pain for years. You are not pleasant when you’re in that kind of pain. An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure, here.
  • Most people’s college degrees are useless, esp. in the Rochester area. Teachers are on public assistance, and work second jobs in retail and food service. Most people have to work 2 or 3 jobs just to take care of their basic needs. It is a bleak landscape, unfortunately, and things you once gushed over — the arts, for example — seem to have no place in the America where kids go to bed hungry. Try not to get too depressed, hopefully the this is pointless, meaningless, and has no use in the world thoughts will transform into a more inquisitive what is the point? mindset, allowing you to find a deeper, more sophisticated appreciation for the things you once had incalculable passion for. And you will find many other things you are passionate about, my friend. Life is a continuous experience, so soak up as wide a variety of its flavors as possible
  • All except one of the therapists and psychiatrists you or your mother have seen are awful. That seems to be the norm with mental health services that you can afford, sadly. So, whenever you see someone new, keep your guard up! They (mostly the psychiatrists) don’t seem to care that you’re exposing one of the most raw, vulnerable parts of yourself. A decent bedside manner is not a luxury afforded to the poor. You are under no obligation to take any of their bull crap. Never stay in an abusive relationship. And don’t let them load you up on a cocktail of drugs!
  • Move out of New York State if you get the chance. Move where young and educated people are moving, places with growing economies and actual job opportunities. Several people are moving west and south. Though, again, be prepared to take whatever job you can get to keep a roof over your head and food in your stomach.
  • Say “hi” to Gracie for me <3. Careful, though, she easily becomes
    KT And Grace

    Like mother, like daughter

    anxious when changes happen. She’ll pee on your bed with everything on it, you and Nick included, because of a minor UTI. Make sure her water dish and litter are cleaned frequently! Only go to the vet for regular shots and check ups unless something is clearly wrong, because vet services are expensive. Also, good news: if it hasn’t happened already, you finally get over your fear of dogs and are effusive around all of the pups you come into contact with.

  • Look in on Mom frequently. Get her proper services, housing, benefits, insurance and a case manager. Check each of these places in person with her, and get her feedback. Check in on any place or people you set her up with regularly, without prior notice. That’s right: unscheduled visits to see what these places are really like in action. Some places are fine at first, then start to go downhill. There are a bunch of problems surrounding Mom (e.g. DVT and Pulmonary Embolism from sitting in isolation and watching TV all day) that you will need to nip in the bud. Keep her active, physically and mentally, and try to get her to make some new friends.
  • You have GERD. Take Zantac, avoid the foods and drinks you are supposed to, and put the top of your bed on cement blocks (the incline keeps acid out of your esophagus). You also get migraines and sinus headaches, so, again, look into food and drink triggers and avoid them like the Plague. I just saved you tons of money and pain by letting you know this!
  • You qualify for Medicaid! For the love of God, do NOT waste $284 a month on the crappy insurance plan that still leaves you with co-pays! Medical costs and unemployment lead to your losing all your money and ending up in severe debt. If it isn’t a necessity, don’t waste your dough on it!
  • Despite all the crap that happens, keep your heart and mind open. Don’t judge something or someone too quickly, and don’t be stuck up. Use your best judgement, of course, but always be looking for new adventures or potential friends. The best way to keep from being dejected and cynical is to be in the trenches with everyone else, fighting alongside them, going through the same things they are. Reach out to people, and don’t get to the point where you subconsciously assume everyone you encounter is going to be awful, selfish, or ready to start a fight. Never lose sight of the good and beautiful in the world. In fact, actively seek it out.

There are probably a few more, but these are the big points that I can come up with.

Hindsight is 20/20, but we cannot go back in time and fix our mistakes. So, besides trying to impart our wisdom on others who are in situations similar to the ones we were once stuck in, the only thing we can do while heading forward is to take our experiences, good and bad, and learn from them. Those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it, after all.

Scumble on.

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The Rule of 15

You may be familiar with the Rule of Three, but have you ever heard of the Rule of 15?

Back in high school, one of my art teachers would incessantly say, “you have to work with a medium 15 times before you become proficient with it.” Considering that this is an art blog, I’ve most likely mentioned this idea before (I’ll post a link to it here if I find it later). However, since practice does make perfect, the concept is worth repeating.


The game that started it all: Super Mario Kart

And it’s not just fine art that this principle applies to. Sound mixing, video editing, feature writing, public speaking all rely on the creator’s refined skills and attention to detail for a quality final product. Plus, cross-training benefits people in creative fields by widening their problem solving skills and perspective.

Why bring this up? Well, I was playing  Mario Kart 64 today, since

it was Snowmaggedon in the Rochester, NY area, and I realized: the evolution of this game series parallels the development of an artist’s technique and skills.

At first, with Super Mario Kart on the SNES, you got the general shapes and colors of characters and environments, in a 16-bit format. With the arrival of Mario Kart 64, characters now had multiple sound bites, polygons were used to make rudimentary 3D environments, and developers were able to create more unlockable secrets.


Toad’s Turnpike in Mario Kart 64

In each new iteration of the game, its evolution was visible and obvious. Additional characters, more options for karts, new game mechanics, new maps based on other games from the current system, and updated versions of old courses.

Now, at Mario Kart 8, we have the first High-Definition game in the series, complete with bump mapping, which gives the game its most detailed textures yet, depth of field, and game mechanics that allow you to toggle with gravity. With each new installment, the series improves and introduces new concepts, designs and mechanics.

Likewise, when you are learning how to use a new medium, you start off with the


You can now play as the Koopalings in the franchise’s latest installment, Mario Kart 8

fundamentals. The Elements of Art and Principles of Design take on refined roles as you learn, through doing, how to create nuances and, in the case of fine arts, realism. A painting starts off as a bunch of flat, abstract shapes, and slowly has sections filled in, layer by layer. As you continue to practice your craft, building on what you have already established, you develop your own style and tricks of the trade.


Which is why you always have to keep scumbling on.



Posted in 21st Century Art, Art, Art Advice, Art Blog, Creative Process, Creativity, Gaming Culture, Media, Multimedia, Nintendo, Productivity, Racing Games, Skill building, Types of Art, Uncategorized, Video games | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Portraying Love Honestly: Where ‘P.S. I Love You’ Succeeds and Stumbles

Love is probably the most common theme in media, and I do mean all mediums. Movies, books, sonnets, music, tattoos, documentaries, children’s drawings, slideshows, art exhibits — you name it, and there will be a plethora of material attempting to portray love. I remember a Sandwich Artist at Subway telling me how her tattoo of what looked like a 16-bit RPG sprite was actually her wedding ring. The character in the tattoo was holding a big sack that started at the woman’s forearm and wrapped around her finger. Pain and permanent ink, how’s that for love? I don’t think I can come up with a better analogy.

Though, what is love? What are its quantitative and qualitative features? Are there different types of love, different amounts? Is love different throughout cultures, or are there certain traits found around the globe? Can love exist without your being aware it’s there?

Furthermore, every story about love is slanted, no matter how much the writer aims for neutrality. There is no fair and balanced reporting when it comes to passion and feelings. The existence of the story itself tells the reader that the topic being discussed is worth paying attention to. As the saying goes, “the news doesn’t tell you what to think, it tells you what to think about.”Anyone talking about actual love will have a lot to say about the topic, since sentiment can never be fully removed.

However, with real love comes the full gamut of emotions. Rage occasionally pops up in long-term relationships. Strong feelings can turn into strong irritants. Starting off as fat and content in your relationship can devolve into your being bloated with contempt for short periods, then returning to content. The full story is what’s intriguing.

No doubt, a major component of love is the relationship in which it exists. The features of it include: how you treat one another; how you feel about one another; how you function as a team versus how you function, think, and feel as an independent person; why you continue to be together and why you chose this one person out of everyone on the planet.

Now that I’ve destroyed romance with critical analysis, let’s discuss the romantic tragicomedy, or dramedy, or rom-com-dram, P.S. I Love You. The film is named after either the eponymous Bette Midler or Beatles song, more on that in a minute, and based off of a book written by then 21-year-old Irish author, Cecelia Ahern.

P.S. I Love You is about a young widow, Holly, who loses her husband, Gerry, to cancer. Gerry, however, has left a series of letters for Holly, helping her through the stages of grief — denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, or DABDA — and allowing her to come to terms with his death. Gerry shows Holly, from beyond the grave, that he remains in her heart, and eases her into a new stage of her life, one without him. Through the biggest storm of her life, Holly has a beacon in the distance, and that is where love is.

P.S. I Meh You

I am tearing up just thinking about it, yet I’m about to subject myself to watching this on Valentine’s Day. The film is a beautiful tragedy, very Irish, which I say with reverence, having predominantly Irish heritage. I first watched this movie with my mother in the theater, and there were definitely waterworks. Though the movie came out more than 5 years after his passing, Dad was definitely on our minds as we went with Holly through her journey. My dad also died of cancer, metastasized Melanoma, on May 1, 2002, so our wounds were still fairly raw and open. You really do feel like a part of your essential being is gone when a loved one dies, like your heart has been drained and all that’s left is a crumpled husk.

Regardless of our pain, or perhaps because of it, we both loved the movie. It was funny, tragic, lively, and fairly honest in its depiction of love and loss. It also had a lot of good music.

I’m definitely getting overly sentimental here, so let’s dive into the analysis.

Gerry with Holly

Gerry’s ghost stays with Holly for a year after his death, not haunting her so much as guiding her towards the next chapter of her life.

First off, the title. Well, Gerry is a musician, and the song does get played in the movie. As a matter of fact, the plot seems to be taken straight from the Beatles’ song, though it is the Bette Midler song that is sung in the film. Take a look at the Beatles one and tell me this wasn’t a direct inspiration:

As I write this letter
Send my love to you
Remember that I’ll always
Be in love with you

Treasure these few words ’till we’re together
Keep all my love forever
P.S., I love you
You, you, you

I’ll be coming home again to you, love
And ’till the day I do, love
P.S., I love you
You, you, you

As I write this letter
Send my love to you
Remember that I’ll always
Be in love with you

Treasure these few words ’till we’re together
Keep all my love forever
P.S., I love you
You, you, you

As I write this letter
Send my love to you
(You know I want you to)
Remember that I’ll always
Be in love with you

I’ll be coming home again to you, love
And ’till the day I do, love
P.S., I love you
You, you, you
You, you, you
I love you

Artists frequently take inspiration from other artists’ work, along with their own life experiences, so there’s nothing wrong here. All the lyrics are fairly straightforward, used literally in the film without much nuance.

Likewise, some common themes in Irish literature, which I found in the anthology Irish Girls Are Back In Town, featuring another story by Ahern, show up in this film. Love, death, loss, magic, ghosts, being haunted by your past — literally and figuratively, reminiscing, and music. From the Emerald Isle, where two sects of Christianity have been at each other’s throats forever (The Protestants and Catholics, i.e. The imperial English and native Irish), these themes make sense, as events over there have often played out like a European country song.

Overall, the ideas and topics addressed in this movie are far from original, but they are important. Life, death, struggle, and love: these are the things that matter most in life.

So, finally, let’s get down to the the nitty-gritty of what this film gets right about love, loss, relationships, romance, companionship, and family, and what deserves to be returned to sender.

Honest Depictions of Love and Life

  • Women will get angry for perceived slights or insinuations and read into subtleties. I don’t want to overgeneralize or focus specifically on heteronormative relationships or roles, but this does happen a lot. A woman can analyze 15 layers of meanings in one subtle comment or gesture, and the man may be paying attention. Call it females having sharper perception, our tendency to overthink things, our being use to other females meaning various things even when only speaking a few words, or our being paranoid. Whatever it is, this does happen occasionally. Women’s analytical skills tend to be on all of the time. Sometimes guys can be slow to pick up context clues and subtleties, and need things spelled out. Women do it, too; it all depends on the people involved and the particular circumstances. But, yes, misunderstandings and overreactions happen. Thus is life. We do communicate differently. For example, if my cat, Gracie, wants something from me, she comes over and looks at me. If she wants something from Nick, she’ll grab or bite him. That is also how they play. If Gracie were to try that with me, everyone would run away, anticipating the fallout. Sure, she sits on or by both of us and meows, but she knows we pick up on different things, which is the diplomatic way of saying Mommy is usually 20 steps ahead of Daddy. (*Edit* Soon after I wrote this, the cat bit me. Granted, it was the same old fight we always have: I wanted to pick her up, Grumpy Puss was telling me “no” via annoyed meow, and I tried anyway. Things have smoothed over since, and I gave her a couple of slices of olives, which she loves.)
  • Throwing shoes, throwing anything. Yeah, yeah I’ve done that.
  • A fight can burst out and be about many different issues. Usually, one thing is the last straw when tension has been building for awhile
  • Reality isn’t “sexy and charming.” Poverty sucks, unemployment sucks, health problems suck. Having someone else to suffer alongside makes it easier, and can make the struggle feel a little more worth it.
  • Cancer can happen at any age. Just figure I should throw that in here. Keep yourself healthy, and do the health checks you’re supposed to for prevention and early detection. The sooner you find it and treat it, the better your odds of surviving.
  • Gerry does kind of look like a leprechaun. It’s odd, especially since Gerard Butler is Scottish, but there’s something about his face and hairstyle in this that makes him look like he has a pot of gold stashed nearby.
  • Money is the number one thing couples fight about. There’s never enough, and figuring out what to deprive yourself of or indulge in is a difficult balancing act, especially when someone else figures into the equation.
  • A true love is your friend, someone you tell everything to. You often oversharing with each other. For example, bodily functions are a frequent topic of discussion. You’re honest with each other, for better or worse, and you joke around often.
  • The people who stand alongside you when shit hits the fan, friends included, are your family. These people are all the loves of your life, in a way different than but equal to your significant other’s love.
  • Fairytale of New York is a great song, and hysterical to use at a funeral. That is how you celebrate someone’s life. After all, a funeral is supposed to be a way to celebrate someone’s life and their impact on yours, as well as mourn your and everyone else’s loss of the individual. Kathy Bates’ face is perfect in the shot where the priest starts singing along.
  • Inappropriate jokes will happen at a funeral. I know I tried to be “light” during my dad’s funeral, still in shock and disbelief, surrounded by a bunch of strangers and “family members” who never bothered to talk to or see him or us when he was alive. During a relative’s funeral, my mother suggestively said to her sister “Mary, the navy is here!” when a sailor walked by. They burst out laughing and got a dirty look from their aunt for that one, and I laughed when I heard the story, decades later. A sense of humor keeps you going through the darkest of times.
  • Dreams and daydreams where a deceased loved one is still alive are common for survivors. It’s a case of dreams being manifestations of what you want the most.
  • You feel numb, broken and detached from the world you once belonged to after a loved one passes away
  • “You gotta be rich to be insane, Hol. Losing your mind is not a luxury for the middle class.” I could write a memoir about how true that statement is.
  • Siblings are weird. I’m definitely the more eccentric one between me and my sister.
  • One member of a couple may be the more assertive and decisive one. It’s not fair, from the outside, to consider this person aggressive or domineering. Sometimes the role of leader needs to be filled in certain situations, and one person naturally assumes it based on his or her personality. In other instances, the other partner may be the dominant one. Though, yes, when looking for a house or apartment, definitely consider the other person’s thoughts and concerns, because your significant other should be your partner, and partners make business and merger decisions together.
  • Survivor’s guilt is common, as is projection. You will remember so many small details of good times, and easily ruminate over things you wish you hadn’t said or done.
  • Couples will egg each other on and laugh at one another’s expense. It’s part of the relationship’s perpetual dance, the flirtation that happens after you’ve been with someone for awhile.
  • It can be incredibly difficult to get rid of anything that reminds you of a deceased loved one, just ask anyone who’s appeared on Hoarders.
  • Pretty much everything Kathy Bates says in this is the blunt voice of reality, and she’s  right. Love is, and can survive, brutal honesty.
  • Slightly older, foreign men can seem worldlier than our boys in the U.S. Some guys can seem at least a decade younger and less mature than their female counterparts, depending on how they’re raised and socialized.
  • Life goes on around you, even when yours feels like it’s stopped. It may even feel wrong for your friends to be happy and absorbed in what’s going on with them when you’re still devastated. They’re living, though, and you will be too, soon.
  • In-laws don’t always love their kid’s significant others, and vice versa. It’s not about them, though, it’s about you and your love.
  • At the start of a relationship, you always try to impress one another and show each other your best self. In a long-term relationship, you’re likely to get called out for being dishonest to yourself or your guy or girl, or for being overly sentimental. You become friends and partners when you’re in a real relationship.
  • Love starts from within and radiates out.
  • Love is when a “wonderful [person] happens to you,” and you claim each other as your own.
  • “If we’re all alone, then we’re all together in that, too.”
  • Not every close friend is fitting as a romantic partner. I am glad the film didn’t take the easy route with Daniel and Holly, and hopefully Holly’s Mom and Not-Gerry’s dad will hook up, instead of Holly and Not-Gerry. *shudders* (More on Not-Gerry in the B.S. section)
  • “There are all kinds of love out there. This is my one and only life, and it’s a great, and terrible, and short and endless thing. And none of us comes out of it alive.”

B.S. Not So True

  • People need space after a fight. Granted, a movie has to keep moving along or the audience will get bored. And yes, NSFW, fights can lead to make-up sex, but you don’t forgive each other 20 seconds after slamming a door. Your teammate has become your opponent, so stay in your own corner until you both cool off and can discuss the conflict more calmly.
  • The silent treatment. Realistically, for me, at least, if one partner is quiet when he or she is upset, he or she is about to explode. In my relationship, there are no petty, immature games of Silent Treatment, the yelling will happen. The issue will be abundantly clear, put out onto the table within a minute of the fight’s initiation, then the immature behavior starts, like name calling or mimicry, depending on the amount of rage and stressors we’re under. Apologizing and saying “I love you” is always necessary. Don’t believe the crap they fling you in tales like Love Story.
  • Flirting generally doesn’t happen at a funeral, though this is supposed to be based in NYC, so I guess crazy and quirky are expected, especially in a rom-com-dram.
  • Forget Miss Havisham. Great Expectations is greatly overrated. It’s difficult to get into Dickens’ style of writing, regardless of whether people actually spoke like that when he was alive. South Park’s version with Pip is infinitely better.
  • Not everything in Ireland is music and leprechauns. Granted, the teens and early 20-somethings this film is geared toward may not know much about the culture, but Ireland’s culture and history is as rich as any other country’s.
  • Karaoke is never the answer. Just no.
  • Women have, at the very least, a general idea of what they want.
  • Dude, bros before hos! You don’t boink your dead husband’s close friend, especially when he looks like Gerry’s doppelganger and you’ve only been widowed for a few months. Why would you get back on the dead horse?! There are layers of “Not OK” here. Seriously, creepy and too coincidental, movie. And don’t mention the dead husband after you boned his widowed wife, Not-Gerry.
  • Going out on a lake to fish when no one on the boat knows the fundamentals is not a smart idea. There are a couple of similar moments in this film when the three friends act more like teenagers than competent 30-somethings. Maybe it’s played up for laughs, or to lighten the seriousness of what is otherwise a tragic period of Holly’s life. This is where S. I Love You starts skating close to rom-com territory.
  • Man butts are usually much hairier than depicted on film and television, except for maybe swimmers’. The more you know. And, yes, women ogle.
  • As soon as she’s a financially independent adult, a woman of substance really doesn’t care about shoes that much.

In the end, I’m still fond of this movie. Anything that can move me to tears or laughter earns its place in my heart. Something that can do both? That stays with you forever. And, as Flogging Molly, the band that plays as the credits role, says in a different song,“Between a man and a woman, it’s everything or nothing at all.” That statement is true of any romantic relationship. A life shared with others is a life of love.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone. I love you. Now go scumble on.

Posted in 21st Century Art, Art, Art Blog, Art Criticism, Art Review, Cancer, Comedy, Comedy Writing, Critical Analysis, Critique, Cultural Values, Dad, Death, FIlm, Films Based On Books, Grief, Holiday Films, Honoring Someone's Memory, Irish Literature, Literature, Losing a Family Member, Loss, Love, Loved Ones, Mourning, Music, Relationships, Stages of Grief, Tragicomedies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Art of The ‘Haw Haw!’

Even if you’re not a fan, you cannot deny that The Simpsons, currently in its 27th season, is an institution in American pop culture. Its characters, for better or worse, are icons, and it’s no surprise. The show is as old as I am. I grew up with it, and it has played a monumental part in shaping my worldview and, perhaps more importantly, my sense of humor. I guarantee you, a lot of 20 and 30-somethings can say the same. The Simpsons connects us.

And, yes, with the show running for more than a quarter of a century, there are guaranteed to be some hit-and-miss episodes. Undeniably, the graphics and details have improved tremendously since the show’s inception, especially with the rapidly shifting technologies available for animation. However, the old days — often thought of as the first 5 to 10 seasons for people with nostalgia goggles who grew up with the show — can seem like the show’s glory days. Back then, you would get voice actors like Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman to play characters that fit the situation the Simpsons found themselves in that week. Now, you get lackluster episodes centered around the guests, like with Elon Musk (who didn’t even do the voice acting for it, so the dullness of that episode really doesn’t have an excuse), or when Lady Gaga turns Springfield upside down (though, full disclosure, I didn’t hate that episode. It was at least fun, colorful and promoted a positive message).

You also get a lot of self-referential gags, which, with a 26-year back catalog, is kind of inevitable from a writing perspective. I mean, how many other shows, except maybe Doctor Who, can do that?  It’s not often you hear “canon” and “cartoon comedy” in the same breath. Won’t somebody please think of the fan base? This is the Information Age, after all. Incontinuity doesn’t go unnoticed. People notice because they care.

What I am trying to say is that there is still plenty of good material to be mined from the world of The Simpsons, and plenty of angles to play with. For example, in Lisa’s arts camp episode, which featured actors from Glee and Flight of the Conchords, the cast and crew did an excellent job of giving Lisa, and, vicariously us, an honest look into the life of an artist after the initial allure and magic wears off. I should also mention that I always gravitated the most towards Lisa as a character, though, often times, I’m probably more of a Homer to rest of the world.

Bottom line is, I know The Simpsons inside and out. Sure, I haven’t seen every episode, because, you know, I try to have a life, but this show will always resonate with me on a personal level. Hence, when I saw this picture of Homer and Marge eating with Apu and Manjula on the show’s Facebook page a couple of days ago, followed by the challenge of “Caption this!” I jumped on the chance to capture the spirit of these characters, and Homer’s tendency to poke the bear:

Simpsons and Apu

Homer and Marge eating at a restaurant with Apu and Manjula. Image from The Simpsons Facebook page.

Apu: Mr. Homer, for the last time, I am not related to Aziz Ansari.
Homer: Well, I just thought,
Apu: No.
Homer: Since you both have funny voices.
Apu: This is completely incorrect.
Homer: And you both seem to know a lot about relationships —
Apu: I cannot believe I am hearing this.
Homer: And you both serve the public —
Apu: Now you’re just confusing him with his character on Parks and Rec.
Homer: So you DO know him?
Apu (to Manjula): Why do we stay here?
Marge: Why don’t we talk about something else?
Apu: Certainly.
Homer: How often do you eat food without curry in it?
Apu (lunging at Homer): You ignorant land whale!

Now, I do consider myself a writer by trade, and I did make myself laugh when I wrote this. However, I didn’t think I would receive overwhelming accolades. As of right now, 200 people liked my little bit of dialogue, and I got a bunch of compliments on it. As a matter of fact, mine was the second most liked comment, only surpassed by one where Homer blames Marge when Apu confronts Homer about eating Apu’s dinner.

Let me say that again: a bunch of people had only nice things to say to a complete stranger online. I think the temperature in the underworld just dropped a few dozen degrees.

So, yes, I’m having a little self-congratulatory moment over here, but this was a big deal for me. I’m used to people either completely ignoring me or blasting me with criticism and unnecessary cruelty — and not solely online. Usually, I’m elated if I get one person, in real life or online, to give me intelligent feedback, and am devastated by unsolicited criticism. But, that’s life. Soak in the good and brush off the bad.

Also, I do try to have my sense of humor shine through. So, to actually write something that makes people laugh is a huge achievement in and of itself, because it is hard to convey tone and mood in writing. Sure, comedy is all about timing, pacing, and playing with the unexpected, but execution is what can make or break a joke. The joke must be built up to. The audience should be laughing a little bit more every few seconds, because the individual pieces are funny on their own, so each bit adds onto the last. The final belly laugh does not come from one uproarious bit at the end, but occurs as the natural conclusion to this series of chuckles. A perfect example of everything coming together to make a joke work is the recent Saturday Night Live skit,”America’s Funniest Cats,” featuring Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), and the incomparable Cecily Strong and Kate McKinnon:

Well, I’ve mentioned cat videos on the Internet, so I think we’ve hit a natural stopping point.

Until next time, scumble on, friends.


Posted in 20th Century Art, 21st Century Art, 21st Century Sensibilities, Art, Art Blog, Art Criticism, Cartoon Comedy, Cartoons, Comedy, Comedy Writing, Creative Process, Inspiration, Multimedia, Saturday Night Live, Television, The Simpsons, Types of Art, Uncategorized, Words, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

We Should All Be Screaming ‘Galavant’!

Traditionally, I would select a single artist or lesser-known group as the Pick of The Litter. However, at times, we must bend our own rules to prevent something wonderful from going unnoticed.

Therefore, today’s Pick of The Litter is Alan Menken and his medieval musical comedy, Galavant.

Alan Menken’s body of work is something that people my age — those in their mid 20s and 30s — know by heart, though many may not recognize his name.

In short, Menken can be credited for creating many of the songs from our childhood. He has written music for several of our favorite ’90s Disney movies, including Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Hercules. So, who better to parody classic fairy tale tropes and clichés than the maestro?

Gal1.2Enter Galavant: A musical comedy with 21st century sensibilities. Think Monty Python’s Spamalot mixed with Disney satire, viewer nostalgia and a dash of snark. Dan Fogelman, who has also worked with Disney, is the show’s creator, and Menken produces the music. The show premiered last year, and its second season began last Sunday. Despite the overall quality and originality of the show, however, it has yet to receive the attention it deserves.

The show’s premise, as sung by King Richard’s court jester, goes as such:

Galavant, a stereotypical knight in shinning armor, is beloved by everyone. He is madly in love with Madalena, “one fair maiden,” the jester sings. Though, technically, we know Madalena is not a fair maiden, because we are given no suggestion that the two are married, and, as we are shown, she is not a virgin.

Regardless, Galavant and Madalena have a seemingly perfect life together, until one day, when the king, King Richard, sees Madalena and decides he wants her as his wife. She refuses, so, while Galavant is buying a pet piglet for Madalena and being adored by the locals, one of Richard’s henchmen kidnaps her.

That is how the show begins, with one added twist. When the gallant Galavant enters King Richard’s castle, overwhelms his guards, and interrupts the royal ceremony, Madalena tells Galavant, “Actually … I’m gonna go with the fame and fortune. Seems like an easier life, you know?”

Galavant, brokenhearted and disillusioned, requires the cunning of a desperate princess, Isabella, and the support of a steadfast squire, Sid, to bring himself back up to snuff and attempt regaining his greatness.

I do not want to spoil anything beyond this point, because the show should be experienced first hand, as if it is a traditional musical in a theater. Its effects are instantaneous, and it delivers well beyond what I expected.

I will, however, say this: Galavant is a home run. The musical comedy has something for everyone. It is witty, charming, quirky and unpredictable. The characters are all memorable and often relatable, the music and lyrics, not surprisingly, are brilliant and go in unexpected directions, as does the plot. The sets are vibrant, the costumes extravagant — honestly, the only bad thing I can think to say is that the show airs Sunday night at 8 p.m. on ABC, and, as we have seen many times, airing on broadcast television can really hurt a show’s ratings in the “Netflix and chill” era. Though, I do believe you can catch up on it with Hulu or Amazon Prime.GalIzzyThe characters, along with the musical numbers, are what make the show stand out. In the opening theme, the jester refers to Galavant, the man and possibly the series, as “a fairy tale cliché,” revealing, early on, the show’s self-aware nature and tendency to break the fourth wall.

Playing with the idea that history is written by the victors, and the details, i.e. the truth, is erased with time, Fogelman and Menken toy with our expectations by juxtaposing them with today’s reality.

Our favorite childhood fairy tales and legends are shown in a new, less flattering light. When Isabella first meets Galavant, she expects a great warrior and charming knight. Instead what she and the audience find is a drunk oaf who doggedly refuses his services to a princess whose family is in peril. Chivalry is dead, and reality stomps its clunky feet right over the corpse.

In a similar vein, Isabella is a spunky feminist princess: self-reliant and intelligent, desiring equality and mutual support (and yes, everyone, that is the definition of feminism). Though that does kind of fall into the traditional ’90s princess trope, I’m OK with it. Madalena, conversely, goes from fair maiden to evil queen in five minutes, when her true motives are revealed. She exists independently of any other character, despite her initial appeal as a prize to be won. Galavant is sophisticated and charming, but he is also crude and irritable. Sid, his squire, goes under appreciated and put-upon, showing that squires are like today’s secretaries, wait staff or personal assistants. There is also a foppish, ditzy man-child for a king, à la Monty Python, and his long-suffering, stone-faced guard, Gareth. We even have Lord Grantham and Daisy from Downton Abbey playing a pirate captain and, well, a singing, medieval Daisy, which should be enough of an incentive to watch the show in and of itself. All of them, surprisingly, become well-rounded characters as the story progresses, which keeps them fresh and entertaining in each new scenario.


“Oh this is so fun. I want to fly like her, too. Someone pick me up.” King Richard and Galavant, a medieval odd couple.

Galavant hits all the right notes. The show is smart because it is not just about a brave, chivalrous knight. It is honest, for all of its camp, in its depiction of the times. Women wed children. Women were objects of value, status symbols. Men acted like children and showed off their machismo whenever they felt threatened or insecure. The rich and powerful destroyed the lives of the poor on a whim. A lot of these things still happen today, and the show makes a point to draw the parallels.

Though all of the main characters are deeply flawed, they are intriguing enough to be likable. The honest tale of one’s life is never perfect, and it is the imperfections of everyone on Galavant that makes them so relatable.

In that respect, we are Galavant. We may not be the valiant hero of legend so much as a broken-down individual. Nonetheless, someone desperately needs us. We may not acknowledge our influence or ability, we may even be completely oblivious to the real power we yield. No matter how broken we become, though, we can still be the hero of a quirky tale.

In reality, we’re all the cook or the servant. We are the impoverished ones who have little power or control in our lives, so we relish the tiny acts of freedom, rebellion and love that we manage to scavenge. We know, “When rich folks war, who die? The poor. On that, you can depend.” Yet, with this half-hour hootenanny, we can escape to a fantasy land where everything gets flipped on its head and the heroes are us, or whomever we feel like projecting onto, for a change. Inside all of us resides a Galavant for some group of people in this immense world, after all.Gal5If you enjoy wit, emotion, satire, irreverence, entertainment, nostalgia, social commentary, and, yes, the impossibly beautiful man candy that is Joshua Sasse (sorry, Josh, I am only human), do yourself a favor and get swept up in the musical event that is Galavant.

Galavant, for the five of us left who watch broadcast television, airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC. For the rest of you, you can catch it on Hulu or Amazon Prime, and I emphatically suggest you do, because it deserves a season three, and network execs do love their ratings.

There is my fangirl review of this singular experience. Let us now scumble on to the next adventure, friends.

Posted in 21st Century Sensibilities, Art, Art Review, Fairy Tales, Feminism, Innovators, Medieval Times, Multimedia, Music, Musicals, Musicians, Myths and Legends, PArody, Pick of the Litter, Satire, Social Commentary, Social Satire, Television, TV musicals, TV Review, Types of Art | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Creators Create

Happy New Year, everyone!

I hope the holidays were pleasant, or at least tolerable, for all of you. I know, since a lot of us are struggling in a myriad of ways, these festive times can seem like society is mocking those of us who cannot logically be rapt by the spirit of the season.

Though, really, love, compassion, charity and sacrifice is present in a lot of good people 365 days of the year, hence why I don’t exactly fall in love with the lip service people display for a few weeks. Still, that’s a better gesture than nothing for some people, so we best take whatever good will we can squeeze out of them.

Krampus Under Car Reveal

As one of the few movies I have seen in the theater this decade, Krampus was well worth the ticket. You’re immersed in the story for its entire duration. When the Engel’s daughter is under a car, hiding from the Shadow of Santa right after he first appears — with his massive, cloven hooves that thud with each lumbering movement, his heavy chains used to ensnare children dragging close to the ground, clanking together — you feel like you’re right next to her, terrified of what the enormous beast is going to do. It is a spine-tingling experience with a moral, though it also offers plenty of opportunities for the audience to laugh.

Speaking of, anyone see Krampus? It’s my new holiday favorite, up there with Rent, Les Misérables and Bad Santa. It hits the nail right on the head with its portrayal of people — Americans, specifically — indulging their basest behaviors come December and acting out the antithesis of Christmas spirit. Ultimately, though, the film reminds viewers of what really matters in life and why, all while offering a few genuinely hair-raising moments.

Sorry, my mind goes off on a tangent, then I have to finish that point and, suddenly, all of my posts end up three times longer than I intend. I really have to work on that …

Anyhoo, on Christmas, I ended up in the ED. Don’t worry, I’m OK. Incredibly frustrated that I am taking so long to heal and be a normally functioning human being again, but all right. The muscles in my back seized up, causing excruciating pain, since the inflammation pressed on nerves, which worsened my pre-existing back problems and sciatica.

Basically, I have old people problems at 27, and I somehow worsened things while trying to fix them. It’s crazy how pain that’s so severe it makes you cry and scream can be predominantly muscular. Really makes me wary about the whole birthing process, if I ever go down that route.

I was in the worst pain I have yet experienced in my life, white-knuckling the wheelchair I was given at the entrance to the Emergency Department, not able to hold back my tears. The pain didn’t lessen until I was given Tramadol, Valium and Dilaudid. I did, fortunately, receive great care from everyone at the hospital, and, though it was at the pace of an 80 year old, I managed to shuffle out of the hospital just a few hours after I checked in.

So things worked out in a weird way for me, and, besides the blinding pain, I had a decent Christmas.

(Shout out to Strong Memorial Hospital! You guys are truly outstanding, every member of your staff. You always do great work, like back in 2013, when Mom had that DVT and Pulmonary Embolism, and you were at 107 percent capacity, yet all the doctors and nurses remained calm and caring, and had people checking in to see if we needed anything while we waited between tests.)

This whole fiasco, on Christmas, made me realize: this was the first time in so long that I felt I was around people who were instinctively thoughtful, really understood what I was going through and cared about my well-being. So, again, thank you to everyone at Strong, from the attendant who got me the wheelchair, told me “take your time, honey” and wheeled me into the ED, to the staff who got me in quick and made sure I wouldn’t fall, to the doctor and nurse who were thorough and made sure to listen to me and explain everything that was happening.

I’m not gonna lie: my family and I have been so lonely and broken physically, emotionally, financially and spiritually for so long, years, that I stopped believing there were any people out there who really care and want to do good for as many people as possible.

People can say, from afar, “get better” or “I’m sorry” or “God never gives you more than you can take” or “things will work out,” but these are empty pleasantries we’re all trained to say when shit hits the fan for someone else. There’s rarely any follow-up or legitimate assistance for those in need. Unemployment and underemployment, poverty, homelessness, hunger, health problems, overcrowded and understaffed facilities: these are the issues that plague Rochester. But, for all of the real problems so many of us have, it seems like so few people do anything helpful, either because the people who know what is going on and want to help are struggling so much themselves that they have no time or money left to offer, or because those, who could help, are willfully and obstinately oblivious and simply do not care.

It has been so rare to see people rush up to someone without a moment’s hesitation and actually do even the slightest thing to assist him or her. But, after my experience with a few good eggs, I now, with extreme caution and hesitation, am being forced to search for genuine good around me, again. I want to see if there is any social community left that’s worth belonging to in Rochester, NY, excluding obvious nonprofit and medical groups, a few of which I do already work with.

Like a minor Christmas miracle, those Strong few (see what I did there?) blasted the spirit of the season back into me, which, hopefully, will keep me going for months to come.

In any case, it is a new year, and the show must go on. So, back to the art and creative endeavors in general.

I came across an interesting and encouraging blog post from Scientific American a few days ago. It explores creative genius, and suggests that to be successful in a creative vicinity, one must immerse him or herself in many diverse ideas and projects and have extraordinary productivity. “Creators create,” as the piece states.

Here’s the article, which I suggest you read:

Productivity is the key to progress. Like some sharks must keep swimming to stay alive, we must keep moving on and constantly be trying to change things in order to improve our lives and our work.

The Creative Process is just that: a process. It takes a lot of ideas and attempts before you land on the right solution.

The Creative Process is just that: a process. It takes a lot of ideas and attempts before you land on the right solution, like with a mind map.

Remember, my creative compadres: every time you fall hard on your butt trying out something new, you’re on your way to something great. We never succeed in any meaningful way without a ton of failure. That failure informs us what needs to change, and creators always change things up. Nothing will ever be perfect, so just sand away the rough edges and move on. After all, even a baby falls down while learning to walk, but it knows to remain undeterred if it wishes to stand tall.

Posted in Art, Art Advice, Art Blog, Art Projects, Creative Genius, Creative Process, Creativity, Holiday Films, Innovators, Perseverance, Perspective, Practical Uses for Art, Productivity, Science | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Value Scale: Shades of Meaning In Our Investments

Sometimes, you have to sell what used to be your most prized possessions to pay the bills. I know I’m not alone in that struggle. Although, being a female who grew up in the ’90s and early ’00s, it may be unique that, for me, these items are video games, of all things.

What can I say? Since I was 3 or 4, my dad, sister and I would play games together on our SNES. Our first team building exercise was Super Mario World. Later, my sister and I tackled the Donkey Kong Country series, having Dad take over when we couldn’t figure out a level because we lacked the mental capacity to solve the puzzles or the dexterity that adults possessed.

Speaking of, it is interesting to notice, if you play a game nowadays that you sucked at as a kid, a level that took you what seemed like forever to complete because of its demanding precision or requisite puzzle mastery, it seems so easy and lacks its previous intimidation factor. These games, in so many ways, mark milestones in our lives.

Most recently, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword was the game I and, to a much lesser extent, my boyfriend, would take turns playing. Nick, the boyfriend, had gotten a special edition of the game for my birthday, which included a Wii Remote Plus and a CD of the game’s soundtrack, so I was beside myself when I received it, because, as he knows, Zelda is one of my favorite franchises.

Playing these games has always been a bonding experience for me and, almost as often, a source of arguments and frustration. Finite gaming time is always a good rule of thumb, for this reason. Even as a young kid, I would get frustrated and yell at my mom for not being able to play the game as well as me. Sorry, Mom, my competitive and impatient nature always surfaces when I get really into something, and, at 5 or 6, I expressed it in a completely unacceptable way.

The Wii was the last new system I got, and was a gift from my sister, my old teammate. Nick and I have bought a few used games from previous systems since, and have played them with the same exuberance we experienced as kids. The poor boy rarely got to play video games as a kid, since his mom was concerned that he would get fat and lazy from sitting in front of the TV for hours, so I’ve made a point to expose him to as many of my favorites as possible.

Some of these games prove timeless, for their stories, their graphic styles, the level of immersion they allow, and the joy, passion, entertainment and experiences they create. They are the 21st century’s version of a family sitting around the radio for a special event or program. Now, however, the family has become much more diverse, and does not need to be related by blood, or even exist on the same continent. Gaming has the potential to be a global, and universal, experience. (I should totally be doing marketing campaigns. I am available for freelance jobs, FYI.)

It’s not even about the Benjamins, anymore. Now it’s all about scrounging for the Washingtons.

Back to today’s land of Adulthood, however, where everything really is rent — and bills, and food, and gas and laundry and copays — I sold a number of retro games to get some much-needed cash. For the most part, I was offered decent prices, and the owner was quite friendly and generous with her appraisals, which is always a huge plus in my book. Manners matter, my friends, and genuine kindness, smiles, “please”s,  “thank you”s, and an eagerness to assist others go a long way, because the quality of your character has little to do with the size of your paycheck and everything to do with how you treat others. Especially in a world where teachers have to work at Wegmans, and retail jobs pay better than office positions.

The reason I mention her etiquette is because I foolishly posted some ads on Craigslist first, trying to get a good deal for used games without having to pay for multiple services and shipping and handling with an online service like eBay. Of course, instead of  considerate, intelligent people, I got a bevy of trolls trying to haggle, barter, swindle or ridicule me. Seriously, I have an ad, it has specific numbers and multiple pictures, why are you emailing me asking for pictures and prices? I distinctly ask, politely, not to have people try to haggle prices, and that’s still all I get. I’m not even going to get started on people’s despicable grammar and inability to communicate. Internet Etiquette 101: Treat an email to a stranger as you would an encounter with a new person in real life. Ugh, just unpleasantness. Not worth it at all, too many people lacking basic tact or social skills. Why I expected better, I don’t know. Maybe because I expect adults to act like adults.

Imagine having this beast living in your home.

Imagine having this beast living in your home.

Anywho, I sold some old games at this store, Game Craze, knowing it was unlikely that I would ever play them again. A few, like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 and 3, and some GameCube games, put a passing smile on my face, but weren’t worth holding onto when I have mountains of bills and dirty laundry closing in on me all of the time. It’s like having the Trash Heap from Fraggle Rock encroach on your territory, dragging its sludge closer to you every minute.

In all seriousness, though, how many of you out there find a canyon of disconnect between what you care about and where you get or give your money? Let’s delve into this starving artist’s notebook, and consider the root of that dissonance.

Sure, most — or all — of these video games possess little monetary value anymore, but the sentimental value is still high for many of them, which is why I didn’t sell those ones … yet. Yes, the GameCube was the last system I got from my dad before he died, so it holds a distinct place in my heart. Several of these games were my mother trying so hard to bring some fun and happiness into my life when I was a miserable, angsty and severely depressed teen, so, giving them away, even though it is 12+ years later, seems wrong, somehow. Ultimately, however, sentiment tends to lose value when hunger and pain take over. Since paying rent remains a continual struggle for us, with my boyfriend working four jobs and my not being able to land one, with my back injury causing constant pain and my having taken time away from gainful employment to care for my mother now being major impediments to employment, selling anything that doesn’t tend to our most basic needs is a necessity.

But, that’s the thing. Trying to figure out which needs are worth denying and which must  be tended to begs the question: what is anything worth if nothing is ever satisfied? When you struggle, every day, to find something worth doing, something that you care about, people whom you care for, a reason to continue doing what you do, anything that will improve some aspect of your life, what is the point of anything? What is the value of bleeding yourself dry and working yourself to the bone when your quality of life never goes beyond merely existing?

Yes, I, as so many of us, could have it much worse. I do not live in an impoverished 3rd world war zone where rape and beheadings are acts of war. But that does not inherently make life in America good, it just makes it less awful, albeit significantly. Money controls everything here. How much food you can afford and what kinds, the quality and amount of education you receive, who you get to associate with, what social outings you are permitted to attend, how much X and the quality of Y you get.

Think about where you work and the things you have to pay for. Retail, food services, construction, customer service, social work, and caring for the ill, elderly and disabled are the major jobs in Monroe County, unless you work in IT or engineering. So, hard work, long hours and low pay are all givens. Home health aides get paid horribly for all they do, Medicaid Service Coordinators and Resident Counselors work in hectic, aggravating conditions while maintaining the surface appearance of a patient saint, and the grueling labor, physical and emotional, involved in all of the above categories make the majority of them the kinds of jobs we went to school to avoid. But, like with India’s Caste system, your socioeconomic status plays a major role in your career options, even though we were told otherwise.

Now, let’s considered who receives the services from these jobs: the elderly, the physically and mentally disabled, the ill, the homeless, the abused, the neglected, the disenfranchised. If working people, experienced and educated, are having such a hard time getting on, how are the people who can’t properly care for themselves fairing? Well, the phrases, “leading cattle to slaughter” and “leaving them to die” come to mind, to give you an idea, but allow me to elucidate.

Even with stock photos, money goes to the foreground and search results for colors are pushed back #priorities

Even with stock photos, money goes to the foreground and search results for colors are pushed back #priorities

Senior housing, group homes, mental health clinics, regular health clinics for people on Medicaid or Medicare, dayhabs for the elderly: the majority of these places are overcrowded, understaffed, underfunded and in the shadiest parts of town. So, even though the workers care for the people they work for, the patients cannot, logically, be given proper care and attention, due to the overwhelming number of individuals who need to be tended to and task that need to be completed. And, again, from aides to EMTs, pay is not good, usually ranging from $9 – $13 an hour for health aides, depending on the organization.

Another issue is that the need for healthcare workers is so great, a lot of places will take anyone who has the proper degree, regardless of his or her training or experience. I have been floored by how many people don’t understand my family members’ health issues or concerns, and know nothing about the deplorable services they try to set us up with. Being our own healthcare advocates and caregivers has been the only way we’ve survived, because this system is so inconsistent and unreliable. I still have shivers run down my spine when I think of the boorish, high-strung case manager my mother got stuck with at Lifetime Care. A nurse who did nothing about my mother’s DVT and pulmonary embolism, yet squawked “That leg looked tight” when we brought mom to our doctor, who immediately identified the problem. That case manager expected me to do her job for her, yet criticized and mocked me in my own home almost every time she came in. Whenever any of us mimic her, she has the loud, grating voice of Toad from Super Mario. That is the kind of service people who need help but don’t have oodles of money are receiving.

Now, part two of the question I posed before: where does the money you earn end up? Rent, bills, food, transportation, health care. OK, but where is the money? What places have enough revenue to keep hiring? Useless, overpriced specialty food and retail stores. Places that produce or sell technologies that, though helpful and interesting, often have no bearing on reality (she said, having written about video games for the majority of this post). People with any disposal income seem to throw their money at crap, being happy taking instead of giving, hoarding instead of helping. And it’s crap for themselves. It doesn’t go to nonprofits. It doesn’t go to utilizing humans as resources, properly training medical professionals and health care workers. It doesn’t go to feeding hungry kids or making sure the poor or elderly have ample living spaces and legitimate quality of life.

Sure, maybe some well-off folks donate for show or to mollify their guilt once a year when the holidays roll around, but not consistently, in any lasting, meaningful way. And, just because any of us donates money, who’s to say where it goes? Does it directly and immediately help the individuals in need, does it produce solutions to the problems these groups and organizations are facing? Or, are the donations just enough to maintain the status quo? Things sure haven’t been getting better in Rochester, I know that much. The “new jobs” are predominately minimum wage retail or food service ones. There are banners all over town promoting food chains that are looking for workers. The American Dream in 2015: keep a roof over your head and be able to feed your family every day.

Kids get cancer. Wives get Alzheimer’s. Husbands develop muscular dystrophy. Moms become mentally ill. Dads get traumatic brain injuries. Siblings have Cerebral Palsy. These diseases never hurt just one person, either. They affect a community, and they hit it financially, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Horrible things happen to wonderful people every day, and we spend money on spa visits and artisan food and shopping sprees. And all of us do it, to some extent. For example, I will often stop to get a coffee somewhere, if only to escape my apartment, be around actual human beings and try to enjoy something, since I have nowhere to go and no way to get anywhere, thanks to our useless bus system and lack of personal transportation. We need to step up our game to help make things better for ourselves and each other. Invest in what matters: each other. We’ve lost our way, because we got wrapped up in our stuff and ignored each other. Like we’ve learned from Fight Club, “The things you own end up owning you.” Society can’t function if it’s treated like a neglected relationship, though. There needs to be a mutual give and take to create equilibrate harmony.

There is little incentive to work at any of the above-mentioned jobs, since, too often, they are overcrowded, understaffed and poorly funded, but there is all the reason to invest in bettering those industries with whatever means possible. Most likely, at least one of your loved ones will end up in one of these facilities, out of necessity, so wouldn’t it put your mind at ease to know it’s a good one?

Posted in Art, Cultural Values, Money, Poverty, Uncategorized, Video games | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Creative Flow: Where Everything is Connected, And Light And Dark Become Indistinguishable

WARNING: I address a serious topic in this post, so, if you’re looking for something light and cheery, maybe check out this post instead. Sorry, not everything on this blog can be cute and playful. I want there to be a marriage between the topics I explore here and things that matter — daily life, our basic needs, societal woes and their potential solutions, etc. Though, of course, I hope we usually have fun doing so.

This is not what I was originally going to post next, but that’s kind of the point.

My creative process is organic. When something catches my eye or ignites something inside of me — emotionally, morally, intellectually, spiritually — I roll with it. At the very least, I make note of it, and put it in my ever-expanding notebook of project ideas, pieces of inspiration and points of reference.

Heart-shaped bruise

Heart-shaped bruise

Yesterday, for example, I was scrolling through the gallery on my phone, and I came across photos I had taken of a bruise on my arm that was vaguely in the shape of a heart.

Ever since I was a kid, I would see creatures within the shapes and colors of our bathroom and kitchen tiles, little faces and forms in the shadows and textures on the walls. Not in the hallucinatory way, mind you, but more as a spontaneous Rorschach test. In the way that normal kids, for thousands of years, have looked at clouds and day dreamed about the objects they saw within, I would instantly imagine a world that was based on the subjects I dreamed up. Their features, where they were looking, if they appeared friendly or scary, human or alien, formed a rich tapestry and gave me their background stories within seconds.

I still do that kind of thing. I see a chestnut cracked open, and its innards are shaped like a heart symbol, so I take a picture. The same with a slice of chicken breast from a local steakhouse, or a leaf on the ground. There are a lot of heart-shaped objects around us, when you think about it — or, more precisely, heart-symbol shaped, because actual hearts are not simple, symmetric, monochrome objects.

So, whenever I had gotten this bruise — one of those little ones that you wonder for days where it came from — I took a picture of it. I was probably feeling morose at the time, and an idea drenched in dark humor took over me. That bruise, purplish on one edge, green inside, could be a symbol. Bruises heal, I think, forming a story around the image. It could be a symbol for, say, domestic violence. A bruised heart: injured, but still whole.

Now, why domestic violence? Beauty can appear in the bleakest of times, a phoenix will rise from ash. Hell, it’s fair to say that beauty, a word as broad and vague as “art,” is what keeps us going in the darkest times of our lives.

Since October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I figure this topic is worth bringing up. Actually, this topic is always worth bringing up, because so many innocent people — children, women and men — get hurt physically and emotionally every day from this problem, since we all too often allow it to occur behind closed doors.

Here is why it matters so much to me: my mother was raised in an unbelievably abusive home. Born in 1956, Mom grew up when men beating their children with belts was common practice — a cruel behavior that most people in America today would never allow happen to an animal, let alone a human being.

Every story Mom and her sisters would tell me about my grandfather would center around his physical, emotional and possibly sexual abuses towards them. Granted, he had been beaten to Hell and abused as a child, and he became severely mentally ill as an adult, so my mom and her siblings felt the utmost sympathy for him after his breakdown. But, my mom and her siblings were terrified, defenseless children who, more often than not, did nothing wrong.

My mother, for example, is someone everyone calls a “sweetheart” upon meeting her, and no description is more apt. She taught me and my sister to love others, be helpful, compassionate and considerate. She is the kind of person who gives until there is nothing left, yet always finds something more to share. She gave her kidney to her sister when they were only in their 20s, and this was back in the ’70s, so the risks were much higher than they are today. She, like my father, took care of everyone before herself, and has done so since she was a little girl. She is probably the most selfless person I know.

How such a sweet, caring, gentle person emerged from the Mazzolis’ House of Horrors, I will never know. She had her mother, whom she adored, whom she would constantly praise when telling me about her. Though, her mom died when Mom was only, I believe, 21.

Eleanor, my grandma, had died in her sleep from a stroke. Before that, she had become an alcoholic due to the never-ending abuse afflicted upon her by her husband. She lived in a house where she was expected to make meals and babies and stay silent, as though those were her sole purposes.

The stories I could tell about that family … ugh, I’m not even going to start right now, because I can only come back from so many tangents.

When Mom and her sisters would go to school, the teachers would see the welts on their arms and legs from all of the beatings. The cops even came to their house, once, and all that happened, because this was in Oswego — the small town in Upstate New York full of drunks, hicks, idiots, abusers and a very particular type of crazy that not even the DSM has been able to classify — where Angelo Mazzoli was friends with the cops, was one of the officers patting him on the shoulder and telling him, “Andy, take it easy.” I should also throw in the fact that Angelo worked at the local newspaper as a press setter, or something to that effect, to further show you how messed up this situation was. He had five kids, because he always wanted a baby around, and all any of those kids could tell their kids about their childhood was how horrible it was because of that man.

Mom and her brother, Jeff, the two youngest kids, just stood there with their mouths hanging open. Someone was finally going to get them away from the monster who tortured them and made them fear for their lives every day. Instead, the opposite happened.

Angelo would line his kids up for a regular beating, and the younger they were, the worse they got it. I imagine that the more they struggled or protested, the harder they were hit, too. I can only imagine what that abusive dick did to his wife. Eleanor, apparently, also hit her kids. Mom said she was nothing but sweet, but to the elder daughters, who were hell raisers and possibly victims of sexual abuse, grandma hit them with her brush. I learned this almost a decade ago when I saw my aunt’s leg looked permanently bruised, which she said was from her mother beating her.

In a perfect world, I would have more sympathy and forgiveness for Angelo Mazzoli. After all, he and his second wife, Liz, took Mom in a few times after she was ready to leave mental health inpatient, after she had been involuntarily hospitalized for being a threat to herself and others, due to her late onset schizophrenia. And they took our cat, Fuzzy, when I had nowhere for him or me to go when Mom had another psychotic break.

I stand by my mother, no matter what. She is my family. That man: no. That man symbolizes all the screwed up stuff we let happen in this world, the things we remain silent about, because we fear looking bad or “starting something,” thinking “it isn’t our place” to intervene.

Speaking of starting something, back to the art! Prepare for a complete mood shift.

When you are creating, mistakes are just alternative routes to the solution whose problem you’ve been trying to figure out. With this in mind, I want to, eventually, draw this heart, probably using colored pencils or some other, vibrant medium. Maybe I will give one side a hard edge, and have the other be soft, allowing it to bleed into the background. It is a heart, after all. I’ve been thinking about what colors to use, where to overlap things, how thick I should make the heart look, what the cross contours should look like — and that’s when it hits me. Should. Not here. I can construct so much in my head, but it isn’t until I put it to paper and play with it that I will decide what direction to take. And, even then, it is subject to change. This truly is an organic process. The creative process is a river, and you must flow in the path it takes you. With the grain, not against, even when the idea behind what you want to make is aimed at going against society’s conventional grains, if that makes sense.

Don’t restrict yourself or use preconceived guidelines. The creative process is a free-flowing performance, a “yes and” improvisation type of situation.

Art is all about continuous discovery and exploration. Mistakes are guideposts to the

Colors, contrast, context: all things worthy of consideration and alternations in the creative process

Colors, contrast, context: all things worthy of consideration and alternations in the creative process

proper path, which cannot be fully realized until you get to it. And, like so many creative people will say, after completing a project, you will see a bunch of things you want to change or do better, and you will bring that drive and mindset into your next project, continuing the cycle.

You put a line down, and maybe it’s not where you wanted it, or how you wanted it to look, but it makes you think: oh, wait. I like this. Oh, I could do this here, and then that would make this

Creative work is reliant on intuition, and sometimes you really do just have to let yourself go with the flow to get where you need to be, whether it’s where you originally intended to go. For example, maybe I will think of putting a band or sash around the heart — is it tight or loose? If tight, does the heart crack? Do bits of it fold over the sash, like fat falls on a human body? Are the contours of the heart uniform, or does it have multiple crevasses, cracks and uneven surfaces throughout, like a real heart? Does it bleed? Is it a strong, robust heart, or feeble and deflated? Most, if not all, art you create functions, at all stages, as an open-ended question. And that is a good thing.

A final note about abuse and violence:

If you’re reading this, and you are in an abusive relationship or environment: get help. You do not deserve this, you can live without this person — who tells you otherwise only because s/he is supremely insecure and fears losing you. You actually will thrive without an abuser around. You deserve love and respect. Please get help from whatever safe, stable group of people you can. It can get better, and you can heal. Love yourself: get help.

I do, however, realize that not all centers or shelters for victims of domestic violence are better alternatives. Up here in Rochester, for example, I saw that a receptionist job at a domestic violence center is a volunteer position. Clearly, money in the U.S. goes to areas that need and deserve it most. Likewise, I have read that a lot of the shelters around the area are considered so bad that homeless people will only go there when they have no other options, because they are overcrowded and people steal things all of the time.

So many of us in the area live in poverty, and, even with multiple jobs, are barely getting by, so options for people who rely on nonprofit groups is sparse. That is why, whenever you can, you need to help a fallen human being. So easily could the tables be turned, and you could be the one begging for a meal or a roof over your kids’ heads for the night. Invest in what matters: one another. Quality of life should not be a privilege in a first world country.

Until next time, my creative collaborators, love each other, and scumble on.

Posted in Art, Art Blog, Art Projects, Art Therapy, Creativity, Female Artists, Forms of Expression, Images, Perspective, Photography, Self-expression, Social Commentary, Visuals | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Art of Honoring a Loved One’s Memory

Retro photo of Dad, long before my existence

Retro photo of Dad, long before my existence

When someone you love dies, you never forget the day he or she passes away. You remember it because it’s the day you lose the part of yourself that thought it would be attached to that person forever.

You may forget the exact time of death, but you remember it was about 15 minutes before the Hospice worker came in to officially announce it. You remember being stunned, not even knowing how to react, sitting on the coffee table — that you’d otherwise be told not to sit on due to its lack of structural integrity. Your head is in your hands. No one is even crying or speaking yet, because the loss is so palpable and overwhelming that the moment has instantaneously been engulfed in a time capsule, frozen.

You remember your trouble-making 18-pound cat trying to jump up onto the freshly dead body, and the three of you laughing, because of the love and bond and epic battles that cat had with that man.

You remember your mother calling your grandmother so she will come over to see your father before the hearse takes him away. You remember your mom, the body’s ex-wife who has been battling late onset schizophrenia, having you and your older sister go up to your rooms so you don’t have to see your father’s body get taken away. You remember Mom having all of you kiss Dad on the head goodbye, and your doing it because you don’t want to rock the boat. But you don’t want to kiss the body, because that body was your dad a few minutes ago, and your grief is too deep and the denial still intact. You haven’t even said or let anyone else say “death” or “dying” up until a friend pushed you into releasing your dark secret like a hot mess, when she kept asking why you didn’t want to go to the school dance that was coming up. You have become sad and distant, and the boy you like has no idea why you have gotten withdrawn and moody, but you are no longer interested in the trivialities of your everyday life. The one thing that matters, the life of your family member, is gone. Your family has since shattered into a million pieces, and it won’t be until you build a new one with your fractured remains that you feel you’re recovering.

What we always seem to forget in the aftermath of these tragedies, though, is that this individual has left an equal, if not greater, part of him or herself with us, and it is our right and duty to continue his or her legacy.

My father died on May 1, 2002 of malignant melanoma. He had skin cancer that has metastasized to his stomach, lungs, brain and pancreas. He was dead within a year of his initial diagnosis. He was 48, about to turn 49. I was 13, about to turn 14.

The double-edged sword with any of my family members has been that he or she takes care of everyone to such an incredible degree that s/he fails to take care of him or herself. It’s almost like a Tragic Flaw. Heck, the last thing my father ever said to me, at the point where he was barely able to rasp out any words, was, “I’m sorry you had to see me like this.” The Selfless Protector to the end. I can’t be certain that was what he said, because it was little more than a whisper, but, knowing him, I have never ceased believing  that was what he said, as he lied in that hospital bed, in a gown, rapidly losing his ability to care for himself in the most basic ways.

Many, many times I have felt resentment towards people in their 40s, 50s or even 60s who are mourning the loss of their parents, because I feel that they have been ungodly lucky for having their parents for so long, and it is grossly inappropriate for someone of that age to be crying over the loss of Mommy and Daddy. Many of us are not that fortunate, many of us do not have that privilege.

However, whenever I think about my father, I believe myself to be the lucky one, because I had someone who cared, who loved, unconditionally, who gave so much of himself to this world. I am proud to be a part of him and to continue his legacy of love, compassion, creativity, innovation, ingenuity, intellect, awkwardness, fun, and everything in between. In Winter, Dad would use his snowblower to clear a path on the sidewalk several blocks up, so people would be able to get out and walk. And that was in the upstate tundra that is Oswego, mind you. He was man enough to take his cat-obsessed preteen daughter to a Friskies cat show at the fairgrounds in Syracuse. After he had a seizure from being taken off of his steroids, but before he had a blood clot in his leg and we had to get an ambulance to take him to the hospital, again, me made sure one of us was always there with him. Once, while my mom and sister went out to the store, he tried engaging me, smiling and talking. I just kept looking down, doing my math homework, denying myself the reality that these were his last few months. Even when going through Hell, he did his best to comfort his family and be cheerful and loving.

I mourn my father’s death by celebrating his life. My biggest regret, for so long, was not spending more time with him when he was alive and arguably healthy.  Remember the day your loved one was born, not the day he left this mortal plain.

So, never having been able to put into words a proper eulogy for Dad, because everything broke upon his death, I simply say that I celebrate the day he came into this world, which would have been 62 years ago yesterday, and I honor his memory by continuing to build upon the foundation he laid for his family and community. I still miss you all the time, Dad, for a myriad of reasons, for all the things we could have done but we’ll never get the chance to. I mourn your death to this day because I’ve never finish celebrating your life, nor do I intend to.

When Dad died, so did any security, stability, or support system we had. It felt like our family died with him. My mother had often said the same thing about her mother, whom she had lost in her early 20’s. People like these, whom we mourn so deeply, are the glue that holds us together. Without them in our lives we feel as though we fall apart. Which is why we step up and honor their memories in the best way possible: holding each other together, and reminding one another why we love these people.

Dad with Fuzzy, circa 2001

Dad with Fuzzy, circa 2001

Thomas Michael Gill

July 30, 1953 – May 1, 2002

Age he’d be today: 62

Scumble on, everyone.

Posted in Cancer, Death, Grief, Honoring Someone's Memory, Losing a Family Member, Loss, Loved Ones, Mourning | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Wrongway Girlfriend — Behind The Scenes

Welcome back, everyone. The topic today is music. More specifically, mashups and sound manipulation.

I have been fiddling around with the sound editing program Audacity, mixing Sublime’s song “Wrong Way” with Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend.” My intent has been to take these two distinct songs and fuse them in a way that produces a new story, a darker narrative, from multiple perspectives. The original tracks both have a ton of energy, a compelling, relatable story, and a fast pace. I like my music to have life, after all! Sublime’s song already tackles several dark topics, but it has one of those fast paced, upbeat tunes that is ironic in relation to its narrative, much like Nena’s “99 Balloons.”

Having already spent hours on this project, I know that I am definitely on to something. But, in terms of producing a quality, polished mashup, I have light-years to go.

So, lyrically, here’s what I have so far. For clarity’s sake, I’ll make Sublime’s original lyrics GREEN and Robyn’s PURPLE. Synced up or overlapping parts will be approximated with  brackets[].

“Wrongway Girlfriend”

Annie’s twelve years old
In two more she’ll be a whore
Nobody ever told her
It’s the wrong way
Call your girlfriend

Don’t be afraid
With the quickness you get laid
For your family get paid
[It’s time you had the talk
It’s the wrong way]

[Give your reasons
I gave her all that I had to give
Say it’s not her fault
I’m gonna make it hard to live]
But you just met somebody new

Tell her not to get upset, [second-guessing everything you said and done
Salty tears running down to her chin
And it ruins up her makeup
They never wanted]
And then when she gets upset tell her how you never mean to hurt no one
A cigarette
Pressed between her lips
But I’m staring at her tits
It’s the wrong way

Then you tell her that the only way her heart will mend [is when she learns to love again
Strong if I can
But I am only a man
So I take her to the can
It’s the wrong way]
And it won’t make sense right now but you’re still her friend
And then you let her down easy

The only family that she’s ever had
[Is her seven horny brothers and a drunk-ass dad
Call your girlfriend
He needed money so he put her on the street
It’s time you had the talk]
Give your reasons
Say it’s not her fault
Everything was going fine,
Until the day she met me
But you just met somebody new
Happy are you sad

Don’t you tell her how I give you something that you never even knew [you missed
Wanna shoot your dad?]
Don’t you even try and explain how it’s so different when we kiss
I’ll do anything I can,
The wrong way
And you just tell her [that the only way her heart will mend is when she learns to love again
We talked all night,
Tried to make it right
Believe me shit was tight
It was the wrong way]
And it won’t make sense right now but you’re still her friend
[And then you let her down easy
Don’t run away if you wanna stay
‘Cause I ain’t here to make ya,] oh no
It’s up to you what you really want to do
Spend some time in America

(Trumpet solo)
Call your girlfriend
It’s time you had the talk
Give your reasons
Say it’s not her fault]
But you just met somebody new
And now it’s gonna be me and [you
She’ll give you all that she’s got to give]
But I’m gonna make it hard to live
Big salty tears rollin’ down to her chin
And it smears up her makeup,
They never wanted

So we ran away
And I’m sorry when I say
That straight to this very day
It was the wrong way
She took a hike
It don’t matter if I like it or not
Because she only wants the wrong way
And you tell her that the only way her heart will mend is when she learns to love again
And it won’t make sense right now but you’re still her friend
And then you let her down easy
I gave her all that I had to give
She still wouldn’t take it, whoa [no
Call] your girlfriend
It’s time you had the talk
Give your reasons
[Say it’s not her fault
Her two brown eyes are leakin’ salty tears
It still ruins her makeup
They never wanted
But you just met somebody new]

What I love about exploring new mediums and programs is that you learn so much new terminology and so many techniques that make you appreciate minutia of other artists’ work, and hear things you never even noticed or bothered to consider before. For example, I was so proud of myself when I synced the lyrics, “you missed,” with, “want to shoot your dad?” and Sublime’s final, “oh, no,” with Robyn’s belting out, “Caaalllllllll” (seriously, her vocals and overall performance are amazing). I hope to upload a finished copy when I complete this project. Though, no promises.

Right now, as it is, this mashup is more discordant than its overarching themes, so its melody needs considerable finessing. At the moment, it’s little more than a cut-and-paste-job, two songs overlapping and interrupting each other in a way an eighth grader could produce. Clearly, I am no sound engineer. I know there is a way to make this project a certified mashup that is at least semi-melodious, I just have to keep plugging away at it.

A few things I know I want to do (and I am sure there is a whole lexicon I’m failing to use, but I’m just beginning, so give me a break): even out the pitch and tempo of the two songs; change volume at certain parts to have one track become the dominant one, with the other in the background, so there is constant tension, with the two tracks fighting for control — which fits with the tone of the new composition; and any other tweaks that will fuse the two songs into one combative track of self-contained chaos. That will be the mark of this project’s completion: when its immersive, frantic angst fits neatly into a little package, like Pandora’s Box.

It is fair to say that what I don’t know could fill a library, but that, at least, allows every day to have the potential for new discoveries. That’s the beauty of the arts: they allow you to consider things in a different light, from a different perspective, and approach your work from a new, unexpected angle. No matter your trade, working with a new medium forces you to stimulate your mind’s creativity and problem-solving centers.

With all that said, I’m going to go tinker with a bunch of different things. Maybe I’ll finally finish up Tiny Huge Impact next. Or write a post about the art of compassion, since so many good people have been getting run over by society, lately.

Scumble on, fellow sound distorters.

Posted in 21st Century Art, Art, Art Blog, Art Projects, Artists, Audio Engineering, Creativity, Forms of Expression, Inspiration, Mashup, Multimedia, Music, Musicians, Musings, Practical Uses for Art, Sound Manipulation, Types of Art, What is Art?, Words | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Stuff Isn’t Getting Done

Hey, everyone, just wanted to check in quick and give a brief update on my lack of blog updates.

I’m coming up with new ideas in all sorts of mediums and experimental phases all of the time. Not to say all of them are good, but, I am trying to write them down. They get written on whatever’s available, so they’re not that organized. Plus, I’m not super focused on anything right now, because Money. I have none, I have monumental debts accruing — ironic, since I got out of undergrad financially scot-free — and I cannot get a job. So, job hunting, applications and interviews have been the priority, and real-life stressors are taking up a large amount of time right now. Though, again, I have plenty of things I want to work on, and it’s just a matter of doing them. Granted, projects can be outlets, but even my outlets can become sources of frustration and I then need outlets from the outlets.

Yesterday, for example, I dipped my toe into sound engineering with Audacity, and begin mashing up Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend” with Sublime’s “Wrong Way.” It’ll be a call-and-response composition when complete, the two songs complementing each other and producing a new narrative. Kind of like a darker version of Meatloaf’s “Paradise By The Dashboard Light.” (I’ve been obsessed with Pitch Perfect and Pitch Perfect 2, lately. Those two movies are my most recent semi-guilty pleasures.)

As often happens with me and technology, however, I began howling at it a half hour in, cakeand ended up going to the gym to blow off some steam, and cake, since the 4th was my birthday, and I desperately need to stop being fat and to heal up my disc extrusion, especially if I’m going to be working in the Bane of Society’s Existence, retail, again.cake 2

Whatever I do, I do with the utmost care and passion, so even the post I was going to write, centered around Fun Home, has become much more complex an undertaking than I assumed, and I’ve been putting it off due to a bad case of the Don’t Wannas.

So, that’s where I’ve been. All I can say for now is scumble on, friends. I haven’t forgotten about you, I’m just trying to keep from becoming another statistic of homelessness and failure in the Greater Rochester Area. Hence, several of my passions are on hold, but constantly on my mind, because I’m neurotic and obsessive and have racing thoughts when I’m in the Zone and I may very well have a case of 21st century ADD. Anyway, I will see you soon, and feel free to keep up with me on Twitter @CaffeinatedKid for updates. Thanks, guys.

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Pick(s) of the Litter: Photorealists

Welcome back to Scumbling Up Art. Sorry for taking so long to put up a new post, guys. My computer is old and burns out easily, I have close to a dozen new posts and projects I’ve been trying to jot down and organize, plus, you know, life going on and my trying to keep up with it.

Anyhoo, I am glad to reintroduce this blog’s feature, the Pick of the Litter. Here, I pick one artist or group who/that catches my eye because of his/her/its talent, insight, perspective, problem solving abilities, originality, etc. Again, I should mention that anything from latte foam designs to compassion counts as art in my book.

A photorealistic painting of marbles by Charles Bell (1935-1995)

A photorealistic painting of marbles by Charles Bell (1935-1995)

For this first Pick, I’m going to give myself some leniency and select a broad group of artists rather than a particular individual. With that said, let’s explore the reality-shattering genre of Photorealism and take a look at its siblings, Trompe L’oeil and Hyperrealism.

Photorealism, as  the name suggests, is a style of drawing or painting in which the artist strives to create an image that looks realistic enough to be mistaken for a photograph. Attention to detail and precision are trademarks of Photorealism, with the Elements of Art and Principles of Design working together to form a near perfect reproduction of a photograph or collection of photos.

This style can be applied to additional mediums, such as computer-generated imagery. And, of course, any photorealistic piece can be based on real life, photographs, or anything in between. An artist can use any combination of pieces, real or human-made, as the inspiration for his or her work. Considering things from a different vantage point and not limiting oneself with issues such as functional fixedness are hallmarks of the creative process, after all. Examples? A leaf can be used as a canvas and a hammer can be used as a counterweight.

A self portrait of Chuck Close from the '60s, one of his best known works

A self portrait of Chuck Close from the ’60s, one of his best known works

Photorealism gained headway in the late ’60s and early ’70s. One of my favorite artists of that period is Chuck Close. Close’s story is remarkable and inspiring. He works as a photorealist, even though he suffers from face blindness, a condition in which the person cannot recognize anyone’s face, only pieces of it, making the parts discernible but the whole a blur, which may have informed his later techniques. He became paralyzed from the neck down, but managed to continue painting with a brush taped to his wrist or even with a brush in his mouth. Plus, here is the practical use of art and artists, right here: his use of colors in his paintings influenced the creation of the Inkjet printer.

You know those paintings that make a point of engaging both the left and right sides of the brain, playing with the idea of the whole image being a result of the disparate parts? (Think of those pictures you see in a Psych 101 class of a bunch of fruits and vegetables arranged to make a face if you don’t know what I’m talking about. Not by Close, but the same principle I’m trying to get across.)

Chuck Close Self-Portrait I, 2010

Chuck Close Self-Portrait I, 2010

Yeah, that kind mental hopscotch is a trademark of Close’s later works. He has gone on to regain some of his motor skills, but continues to draw hundreds to thousands of small boxes and shapes to create portraits. His is an amazing story, so check out if you want to know more.

Back to my original point, what I admire about photorealism is the dedication to craft that goes into producing a piece, along with the visual tricks used to make the subjects appear real enough to seem as though they are part of a photograph. That whole idea of working in a medium 15 times before you become proficient with it? Yeah, photorealists are the example of what happens when you continue to improve over several sets of 15.

I would argue that any artist, when starting out, is trying to draw or paint in a photorealistic style, unless he or she is purposefully imitating a specific genre of art or using a particularly stylized approach. Likewise, from my standpoint, the goal of any artwork is to make the subject be experienced by the audience in a raw, truthful manner. Unseen sentiments, rarely considered situations, the inner world shown outside: these are the kind of things I’m talking about.

This is not to say, however, that photorealistic works appear 100 percent real. That honor goes to works produced in the Trompe L’oeil style. Trompe L’oeil, which is French for “fool the eye,” is a genre in which works are made to be life-sized and look as real as possible. Thus, the genre makes a point of playing with viewers’ minds and forcing them to reevaluate their perception of reality.These are the works that can screw with someone’s mind as much as M.C. Escher’s impossible triangle and devil’s fork motifs. Like the raw depictions of Frieda Kahlo’s inner world, M.C. Escher’s visually perplexing tessellations, or Salvador’s Dali Surrealist paintings of melting clocks that confuse and converge the dream/nightmare world and the real world, Trompe L’oeil immerses the viewer into the reality that the work creates. The line between art and life blur, and reality begins to overlap with imagination. That is what good art, in whatever form, can do: perplex and inspire.

An anecdote about the origins of Trompe L’oeil that I read back in high school told of a challenge presented to two artists: make a painting look as realistic as possible. The man who put them up to the challenge looked at the first contender’s work and was impressed. He then went to pull back the curtain covering the second contender’s work, only to find that the curtain was the painting. That psychological effect is, in my opinion, the groundwork of Trompe L’oeil, and any kind of art, really. Suspension of disbelief, immersion in worlds produced by humans, blurring of reality and fantasy in a way that encourages innovation and challenges norms, now that’s food for thought!

Trompe L'oeil plate painting, 2005

My magnificent crap, a “Trompe L’oeil” painting of a plate, knife and fork on a purple cloth. I made this back in 2005, when I was 16. I would like to say that my skills have improved greatly since, but eeeeeehhhhhh, we’ll see.

Going from a rudimentary understanding of the style to an intermediate one, we then see the lines of reality being frayed further with hyperrealism. Depending on your source, the two approaches can be considered one in the same. But, depending on the spectrum of images you compare, the difference can be indisputable.

Here’s an example for you. Above is an oil painting I made when I was 16. It is a Trompe L’oeil approach, and the subject is a plate with a knife and spoon.

From afar, if you place the painting on a flat surface (and take your glasses off), it kind of looks real. Then you have hyperrealistic paintings like this one by Mike Dargas.

My pitiful plate painting doesn’t look so real now, does it?

Mike Dargas,

Mike Dargas, “Holier Than Thou”

With the larger-than-life hyperrealistic paintings by Mike Dargas, I think the HuffPost’s Priscilla Frank put it best. His works are “those almost realer-than-real depictions of everyday life, captured in granular details that exceed the powers of normal vision,” While Dargas’ paintings are not the traditional life-sized images Trompe L’oeil artists strive for, blowing up the proportions of these portraits allows much more detail to be added to them — something any aspiring artist should make note of, as it applies to any medium. More space = more room for details

The bottom line to all of my rambling is that photorealism and all of its partners, done well, show what wonders can be accomplished when someone dedicates his or herself to a craft.

So scumble on, friends. Get your 15 practice runs done, then rinse and repeat.

~ ~ ~

Interested in being a Pick of the Litter, or know someone who deserves recognition for their contribution to a particular craft? Let me know! My Twitter handle is @CaffeinatedKid, so feel free to send me a Direct Message about your #PickoftheLitter. Or, just go old school and comment below. That works, too. Thanks, everyone! You guys are awesome.

Posted in 20th Century Art, 21st Century Art, Art, Artists, Artists with Disabilities, Creativity, definition of art, Drawing, Forms of Expression, Images, Inspiration, Oil Painting, painting, Perspective, Photography, Photorealism, Pick of the Litter, Practical Uses for Art, Trompe L'oeil, Types of Art, Visuals | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In My Shoes

While I finish up my latest post (one day, I do hope to establish a solid routine for posting), I want to share with you all a glimpse into my life. A paw-sitively strange, purr-fectly odd, fur-ocious — Holy Hairballs, Batman! She broke the pun-ometer again!

Anyway, it’s my cat, Gracie — also known as Goose (because she looks like a cooked goose when she’s bunched up), Floppsy (because she flops on the ground to greet whoever comes through the door), Loaf (she looks like a loaf of bread), Kit Kat, and one hundred other names — hiding behind my boyfriend’s mascot feet. (Inside scoop: He’s R Thunder the Knighthawk, and a music buff, to boot! Check out his blog over at

When you live with a #mascot, this is a daily occurrence. #CatHidingPlaces #Size26Footwear #MyNameIsShoes

Gracie Mascot Shoes 1

Gracie Mascot Shoes2

She likes to chill out amongst our shoes and sometimes uses the area to hide while hunting her daddy.

Also, happy National Doughnut Day! If you get a chance, indulge your inner Homer Simpson and go get a “free” doughnut (with the purchase of a _) over at your local doughnut shop. If you live near a Krispy Kreme: make sure to savor and appreciate their mastery of the sugary glazed treat.

Well, I’m scumbling along. See you again soon, buddies.

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Katie’s CliffsNotes

“Steinbeck’s Nightmare,” also known as “When Grapes Attack.” Forget Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. Forget poverty. Forget social injustice. These sour grapes are out for revenge!

Steinbeck's NightmareSteinbeck's Nightmare Close Up

This is what the renowned author wrote about in his novel, right? The story of a family of farmers in the Dust Bowl that had to uproot and travel across the country with nothing but its uncertainty, frustrations and willingness to work during The Great Depression? You know, the classic American tale that’s drenched in religious overtones and symbolism, that tackles crises of faith? The social commentary about how human beings are treated and what they are reduced to during periods of decay and uncertainty in this country? The story I often think of while traversing the bleakest, most surreal, horrible and unbelievable moments of my life?

… I blame the California Raisins. They’re the real scabs.

Posted in Art, Cartoons, John Steinbeck, Literature, PArody, Puns, The Grapes of Wrath | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

(Not So) Quick Draw: Land of Opportunity

Here is my latest cartoon, entitled “Land of Opportunity.” I hoped to make it a quick draw, but underestimated the amount of time it would take to construct. Plus, I’m out of practice and wanted to make these drawings as perfect as possible, despite cartoons being a visual shorthand, so I pored over the details, as usual.

I can, at least, say with total conviction that “Land of Opportunity” is an emotionally honest look into my sentiments regarding poverty in Western New York, the wage gap, discrimination, hypocrisy and a bunch of other related fun.

Let’s discuss content, context, and then critique this piece.

First off, in terms of media, I used a mechanical pencil, basic pink eraser, 2B and 4B graphite pencils (I was going to use 6B and 8B, as well, but I have misplaced them), and a Uni-Ball pen on a basic 11″ x 14″ sketch pad.

In the vein of political cartoons, though this is closer to … a social commentary? An allegorical manifestation?A physical representation of my current inner turmoil? Well, a cartoon, I drew this on only 2 panels instead of using a complete series. It could have been one, but I wanted a before-and-after narrative. A person could easily argue, however, that the second panel can stand on its own for the intent of portraying my message.

Now on to content. The physical embodiment of Society throws a grenade — though, now that I think about it, the pin should be out of it already. Anyway, Society throws it at a kid and his dog, saying “Not my problem.” Hopefully, the symbolism is obvious there. Where the grenade came from, who knows? But, it was in the possession and control of Society, and He, a rich white male in a suit, tosses it away, accepting no accountability or responsibility, indifferent about who gets hurt.

The kid and dog, the innocent, are stunned, as they see the grenade hurtling towards them. The kid is of an ambiguous race or ethnicity, a choice I made to show he is not related to the man or woman in the drawing, and because, let’s face it: a majority of individuals in the Greater Rochester Area who are left cleaning up everyone else’s messes and are most severely affected by the poor, selfish decisions of the privileged, are minorities.

From stage left comes a woman, screaming “No!” to Society, trying to prevent the kid and dog — who is supposed to be a Scottish Terrier, by the way, but looks more like a pig, especially in the second picture, because I need to work on my drawing skills — from being blown to smithereens. As someone would expect any good Samaritan to do when seeing a child or animal in imminent danger, the woman runs to them, ready to literally jump on the grenade to protect them. Thus ends Panel One.

In Panel Two, we see that the woman now has a cheap artificial leg, because hers was blown off by the grenade. The kid and dog have become her adopted family, and the dog, gaunt, scruffy and disheveled, like its owners, begs for food as the kid stares into the distance, contemplating his and his family’s immediate future. To the right, we see we are in Rochester, NY. To the left, we see the woman, on her knees, pleading with a bloated, hypocritical and dismissive Society, for any work that will allow her to provide her family its basic needs. Society shoos her away, blaming her for what is clearly his lack of accountability and selfishness, his arrogant malice. He is outside of his lavish house, shaming the innocent and honorable.

So, what prompted me to draw this cartoon? A flame war. Yep, getting trolled by a group of oblivious, arrogant, callous and self-righteous (white, middle-aged) people after I made a legitimate point about people at McDonald’s getting more pay. Getting such low-blow, personal attacks from complete strangers who know nothing about me, and probably would consider themselves right no matter the facts, came as a true shock to me and cut me deep. It was a credible newspaper article I had remarked about, and I got verbally assaulted. Granted, you’d expect me to have a thick skin, considering I studied journalism and have gone through a lot of things in life that a lot of people twice my age have never been exposed to, but being told I wasn’t taking responsibility for myself, that I made bad life choices, and that all Millennials are self-entitled little brats going “waaaah!” all of the time really got to me.

Here I am, almost 27, having had to take care of myself and my family since I was a teenager. I have one parent dead from metastasized skin cancer, and the other one severely disabled from late onset schizophrenia. Regarding the latter, I regularly deal with a disease that is like a combination of dementia and a developmental disability, which leaves my mother a shell of who she was during my first decade on this earth. A flat affect, poverty of speech, apathy, a tendency to isolate herself and fail to properly tend to her basic needs is what I am up against, alone, except for the help of my boyfriend and sister, with the latter living in another state. I literally broke my back (L5-S1 disc extrusion, to be precise) carrying my mother’s dead weight, taking care of someone society threw away and cleaning up everyone else’s messes without earning a cent. Except for housing that equates to long-term inpatient located in the ghetto, there is no housing and are no proper services for individuals with severe mental illness in NYS, so we have been left to figure everything out on our own and fight our way through every step of the way.

I have been responsible decades before most people have even had to consider growing up. Sacrifice, prompt action and compassion are the cornerstones of my real family. I got through college with 3 specialties, multiple skills, and an honest, hard-working mentality built on integrity, transparency and accountability. I help groups that care for children with cancer and people with muscular dystrophy. I may not be a soldier, but I sure as hell have jumped on a lot of grenades for people since I was 10. So, being verbally assaulted in such a hostile, unrelenting way was a definite blow to my already depressed psyche. And I have been obsessing ever since I was attacked — more than a month ago.

Again, if I presented the truth to these A-holes, they’d dismiss whatever I said, try to bait me into a fight and will always believe they are right. A lot of people will never know and never care about (fill in the blank). These online trolls, like their in-real-life selves, don’t know, will never care, and always want you to eat their s*** with a grin because they’re always “right.” I live down the street from one of the rich areas of Rochester, so I can attest: online or in person, these people boil down to ignorant, domineering trolls. Some behave even more disgustingly IRL, while others ooze despicable vile online.

There will always be people shaming your very existence, who are more willing to run you over than consider you an equal human being. People think that a college degree means you can earn $15-$20 an hour. In reality, in Rochester, NY, you’ll be earning a few quarters above minimum wage for a good while before you get a fraction of what you’re worth, and you have to beg and fight for it every step of the way.

With all of that in mind, I made this drawing as a catharsis of my sentiments and frustrations with the situation thousands, really millions of us have been forced into. It is a raw depiction of what life has felt like, and the way so many people have treated us for the last several years. I like to think of this as a much less skillful means of exploring the life inside of one’s mind and heart, kind of like Frida Kahlo’s works, but in cartoon commentary form.

Finally, getting back to the art itself (sorry, the artist’s life overlaps with good art), there are several areas worth critiquing. I tried to actually have the subjects’ eyes looking at one another this time, a detail I still need to work on. I did use a broader range of shading pencils, though, as I stated above, I was slightly limited since I lost some of my bolder pencils. Plus, with these cartoons, you only have so much room to work with, so nuances are lost to the average viewer’s eye and you really have to limit the amount of detail you include so as not to muddy up the overall composition or its message. Though, I do want it to look as good as possible, so it’s a constant give and take process.

Also, only being able to use my 10mp camera phone and whatever lighting is available makes details I worked painstakingly over get lost in digital upload. I would scan it in, but my crappy Kodak printer’s scanner is tiny and screws up exposure and contrast, and the integrity of the piece stays intact better with my current set up, however chintzy it may be.

I did want to keep a singular light source and really have the images pop, adding dimension, depth and life to the piece, which I think I did an all right job accomplishing. The strong contrast of values helped tremendously, and I even got some texture showing on some of the clothes, like Society’s suit. I may have been overzealous with the shading, though. Again, cartoons are fairly minimalist compared to, say, still life or figure drawings. The rules, though many overlap, are separate entities. In the first image, I needed a better focal point to draw the viewer into the cartoon, so I added action lines to the grenade in an attempt to accomplish that goal. For my next drawing, probably the Zelda parody, I may try using actual colors.

The dog. Ugh, I need to do some actual figure drawings of animals. First of all, before I shaded him in, I smeared his eye right after I used the pen, so he looked like Ziggy StarPup. I noticed small details can make the biggest difference when it comes to making something look organic and realistic. For the dog, I made some curves and outlined the contours of his legs. The feet, ugh, I’m ashamed. I also sketched in some scruffy lines to give the impression of his fuzzy texture. In the second picture, though, woof. He looks more like a pig. His butt is too big for his body and his torso is too long to look natural. At least you can tell he is supposed to  be a dog, right?

For Society, I added some lines to the fabric of his clothes, as I did with the woman and kid. Folds occur naturally in figures’ clothing, so including them adds some cartoonish realism, when used sparingly. I probably overdid it with some spots, but that tends to be what happens when you uncover a new technique or detail. You should see how I agonize over hyphenating words; my head is like a distorted AP style book.

I also don’t like how I shaded him in the second picture. It’s in line with the direction of lighting with the other objects, but it doesn’t look right. I also just realize, I didn’t give his hair the right values. Moreover, his head is off center and the color looks off compared to his hairy chest (I wanted to make him look like a disgusting, middle-aged douche as much as possible, pardon my French, which is why he has a paunch and a balding head with a bad comb over). I made everyone else thinner and Society fatter in the second picture, ripped up the kid’s and woman’s clothes and gave the kid big, sad sunken in eyes and hollow cheeks to drive the point home. I clearly drew an extra finger on the woman begging, and the angle of the kid’s hands, which are propping his body up, still looks off. I try to look at my hands for real life examples, which helps a lot, even with more simplistic cartoon designs.

Again, this took me a lot longer to make than I had anticipated, so I don’t mean to say it’s ridiculously easy to do this. I just consider it easier than trying to create an exact replication of someone or something. I did add some shadows to inanimate objects, which I do think gave the images a little extra dimension. I am still figuring out what I need to add and subtract with these things. The amount of space you have to work with figures a lot into that, as well.

And that’s my overall analysis.  I may come back and edit this to add a few new findings as they come to me, especially since I’ll probably be making grammatical tweaks to this multiple times.

For my next post, I should really do a Pick of the Litter. It’ll have to do with photorealism, a technique I aspire to master (not that you can tell with my recent 2D works), and one that makes art truly awesome. After that, maybe a few more drawings, a post about music that really gets to me, and then the one about Sia’s “Chandelier” video. “Mental Hell,” “Why Link Swears” (Zelda parody), and “Tiny Huge Impact” are projects on the roster. I also want to start a “Draw in the style of: _” series, drawing, or using any medium, really, in the style of a particular artist. It should be a good learning experience.

Until then, scumble on, my creative companions, and try to do something nice for someone else at least once a day. A small act of kindness can make a monumental difference in ways that you wouldn’t expect.

Posted in Art, Art Projects, Art Therapy, Blog, Cartoonists, Comics, Creativity, Critique, Drawing, Female Artists, Forms of Expression, Images, Musings, PArody, Social Commentary, Western NY Artists | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Slippy’s Grasp of Core Concepts — Project Completion & Critique


Project complete. Hope you all get a chuckle out of this, regardless of your video game knowledge.

As I wrote earlier (see previous post), I used Slippy Toad’s dialogue from Star Fox 64 to make a comic that addresses our frustrations with the greenest (see what I did there?) member of the team. I got across the message that I hoped to convey, so the comic was successful in that respect. The drawings, meh.

As usual, I improved with every panel, then managed to screw something else up while refining. Thus is the nature of the Creative Process, though: constant learning, experimentation, frustration, obsession, self doubt, aha moments, invigoration, analysis, critical thinking, acceptance (or is that the final stage of the grieving process? Eh, too much overlap, when you think about it), rinse and repeat.

I left most of the flaws in the drawings, because they’re small errors, for the most part, and fixing them would likely cause bigger errors or screw up the value scale, which would’ve made this take even longer to finish. It’s amazing how long it takes to make something that appears so simplistic. Again, major props to animators who do this for a living.

With each panel, excluding the first one, being 6″ x 4.5″, the General definitely needs to take center stage over the Specific. I did shade this comic more than the other two, though. Moreover, because I have very few editing tools/programs on my computer, I just used photos that I took from my camera phone to keep the integrity of the original piece as intact as possible.  Obviously, some parts are lighted differently than others, etc. etc., but I did my best with what I have. One day I’ll upgrade, but for now, this will suffice.

With all that in mind, let’s critique this cartoon, panel by panel, and see what notes I’ve come up with for future projects. As we all know, hindsight is 20/20, so let’s check out my precision teardown.

Panel 1

Measure twice, cut once. Or, in this case, draw lightly and don’t color anything in until you’re sure the title fits in the box and says what you want it to. But, call it serendipity, I made it work. For a comic about gaffes, having everything designed properly would mean missing the opportunity for visual gags.

So, after omitting the “A” I had originally put in the title and turning it into what looks like a template image from a Publisher brochure, I put the subtitle “A Star Fox 64 Parody” up top, kept the pun simple, and colored in the title to fit the toad’s hue. Turning “Slippy” possessive made me forgo the diving line between the first two panels, which works because the title flows seamlessly, literally, into the comic, which I have always admired with cartoons — instant action, starting in medias res. That technique works here, since many of us already know the general premise of Star Fox. Also, overlapping the panels or having characters step out of their boxes is always a fun and clever way to toy with the fourth wall, bringing the subjects more to life and creating a more engaging, unpredictable aesthetic, which is another big component of humor — going somewhere unexpected that ends up working.

I came across a Uni-ball micro pen when I was tracing over my lines, and it is my new favorite tool. So much better than a Sharpie or a darker pencil for strengthening lines. In the future, I will probably try to be more bold and quick with producing my cartoons, starting with the pen and then shading with the full range of Bold and Hard pencils, instead of sticking mainly with a mechanical pencil and a few other ones I pulled out.

I ended up drawing Slippy from a profile view, back view and three quarters view. I noticed, with cartoons, characters are mostly drawn in 3/4 view, since it gives more visual depth to the piece and keeps the subject from looking awkward. Anime seems to be the exception to that rule, showing a profile view more often, which makes sense, since some anime exemplifies the idea of cartoons being a short hand version of drawing, with their minimalist designs. With cartoons being a shorthand and exaggeration of the actual subject, 3/4 view allows animated behaviors to come across properly and allows the illustrator to create a forced perspective if need be, meaning objects are manipulated to appear closer or farther away based on how big or small they are. Though, with forced perspective, a frontal view can work just as well (I’m thinking of a certain vulgar Mad Men drawing with Joan and the British guy).

The shading needs a lot of work. In some parts, I employed a straight chiaroscuro technique, defining one strong light source to create a contrast between light and dark areas that produces a dramatic image. In a Star Fox cartoon, however, that’s doesn’t really fit the mood, especially when you see Peppy looking at Fox in the second to last panel. You could argue it’s used ironically to add an additional level of humor, but it’s just kind of unfitting. I really need to work on forms, too, and shading circles and arms to make them look more round and natural, or realistic, for a cartoon, at least. The shoes in panel one still don’t look right, and I can’t quite figure out how to make them correct, so I will need to research other artists’ techniques and continue practicing.

Two important things I want to remember. One is having the light source be consistent and giving shadows and values to all aspects of an object — eyes, face, mouth, hat and areas with shadows, for example. The other is to use a range of Bold and Hard pencils (B, H, HB), but use, first and primarily, simplistic designs with the Uni-ball pen. Additionally, use the cross contours of the object you’re shading to emphasize its shape and texture. It is a cartoon, and, even though some stories do exceptionally well with detailed, dramatic elements (Persepolis), cartoons do not lend themselves to these artistic sensibilities as well. They serve as quick visual jokes or statements, and should appear as such, though detail and care is always something to appreciate and consider, depending on how good you are at your craft and how much time you have to create the entire project.

Panel 2

The chair looks weird. Also, the shading is kinda screwy, since Slippy’s back is facing the light source. Again, need to work on making objects, like the wing of the Arwing, appear more curve. And the ship’s steering wheel/throttle is off center. I do like the radar detail I put in, though. Makes Slippy look even more foolish, which I’m totally about. (Fun fact: when I was a kid playing Star Fox 64 with my cousins, I always called Peppy “Pepsi” to get a rise out of them. Much like how my Dad insisted on calling Yoshi “Horsey” in Super Mario World, much to my chagrin.) May have wanted to show a slight shading on the windshield, too, maybe with just a few lines, or a very minor reflection.

Panel 3

No majors issues, just need to be more precise and careful with my pen marks and maybe angle the back of the ship up higher to give the beam in the back more depth. See Falco, Peppy, and Pigmas’ silhouettes, by the way?

Panel 4

First 3/4’s view! I was thrilled with this one initially, then I noticed the mistakes. Slippy’s dead eyes, while appropriate, given the subject matter, are something that need to be corrected in future drawings. You can see Fox is also not staring directly at Peppy, which would be fitting if it was only to display his cool attitude in one picture, but I did it in the final panel, as well. Whoops, live and learn. I messed up his right hand and didn’t try to white it out, because I make big messes when I try to do that, and yes, that is a Cheeto in his mouth and not his tongue. The hat and right shoe also have some pen flaws. I like the detail of the crushed Cheeto, the mix of the round and traditional ones, and the details of the individual Cheetos in the bowl, though they are far from perfect.

Panel 5

You know what you can’t see in a reflection? The side of the original object that is NOT BEING REFLECTED! Yep, I drew the back of Slippy’s head when I should have just taken the original image and copied it in the windshield … window? The glass. Ideally, the image would be a few shades lighter than the original too, since it’s a reflection. I still feel like the angle of the image doesn’t match up to the original image, but because of the angle of the glass (seriously, what frickin’ word am I looking for?), I found it hard to determine what was correct. Ultimately, as long as you get the picture, it did its job. Also, shading on Arwing could be improved. Important to remember: lines are often NOT existent on an object, but our mind put them in when we are trying to recreate it to make it seem whole. The solution? Shading that defines each area, and white lines/absence of shading divides areas.

Panel 6

Fox faces are difficult to draw! Even more so with animated, anthropomorphized ones. Trying to figure out the right shapes, lines and shades was definitely a challenge, and, frankly, I don’t think it looks enough like Fox. Also, the leg he is using to prop himself up with is bent, so, unless he’s exercising, I put him in a perpetual squat instead of a casual wall lean. No wonder he’s so svelte! And he’s looking off to the side, not a Peppy. Ugh …

Panel 7

Tricky. Tricky was, well, tricky. I screwed up his left eye, tried to white it out with some acrylic paint to fix it, and made a bigger mess in the process. Obviously I drew a few of the lines in his tail erroneously, as well, and his relation to the Horizon Line seems inconsistent. Again, the shape, contours and textures (basically all the Elements of Art and Principles of Design, when you get right down to it), are off compared to Tricky’s actual model. And Fox looks like a skunk getting burgled, though some (not me, personally) would consider that an appropriate analogy of Star Fox Adventures.

Additionally, callback to the first picture! Fox’s hands parallel Slippy’s, a happy accident in the realm of repetition (so, at least not all of the design principles have gone to the wayside).

The takeaway? Less is more, contrast is good, always work from general to specific (with any task, really, it helps keep you focused and sane), and just keep practicing. An art teacher I had in high school used to tell us, constantly, that you have to work with a medium 15 times before you become good at it. So, 3 cartoons down, 12 to go? I need to get back in shape with my art. Don’t let yourselves fall out of practice, guys, doing so has a notorious tendency to bite you in the butt.

Not sure what I’ll do with the blog next. Maybe a quick sketch, maybe a Pick of the Litter. For now, I am going to go outside, enjoy the sun and try to get rid of this headache I have.

Seen you all again soon. Thanks for reading, or skimming. Scumbling out.

Posted in Art, Art Criticism, Art Projects, Comics, Critique, Drawing, Gaming Culture, PArody, Star Fox, Star Fox 64, Video games | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I’m Coming, I’m Coming, I’m Coming!

Star Fox 64 Parody Cartoon

Star Fox 64 Parody Cartoon

Hey, everyone. A lot is going on with me (hopefully leading to good things, fingers crossed), so I’ve been a bit inattentive with the blog. But, I am back at it (remind myself that this art blog is part of an organic, continuing process, no failing, just continuing, one step at a time, naturally transition yourself into a routine, blah blah blah).

I originally intended to have my next post be about Sia’s “Chandelier” song and video, why it matters outside of pop culture, and why it became so popular, apart from the blanket idea of it being an unusual video. When I got all of the content together and began writing it, though, I realized it was going to be the equivalent of a college essay, albeit somewhat informal, so I’ve put that on hold for now, because I have the attention span of — ooh, shiny! Also, not all of my blog posts are going to be long, I actually strive to have them be normal blog/article length, so a couple of shorter ones before that post makes sense.

Anyhoo, I’m having some fun and flexing my creativity by making a comic that pokes fun at the runt of the Star Fox team, Slippy Toad. I was replaying Star Fox 64 (which I originally starting typing as Tsar Fox, very different game) a few months back, and I took note of Slippy’s dialogue. Star Fox is one of those games that is great for a short session, because that’s how long the game is. So, you play it a bunch of times, and as you get increasingly frustrated (the hallmark of a good game, but also a sign that you should put the controller down soon before you launch it across the room), you start mocking characters for their repeated lines of dialogue that do nothing to help you and cannot be shut off.

And that’s where the scenarios I’ve thought up for this cartoon came from. Simple as that. Having fun and blowing off some steam inspired me to practice a craft. Video games: advancing creativity, problem solving, dexterity, spacial reasoning, friendships and quality time together. Granted, I was mostly alone for this playthrough, but some of my fondest memories are of playing video games with my sister and Dad as a kid. The games were  fun, colorful, challenging, engaging, inventive, and different, yet something controllable and able to be conquered, which a little kid/little sister relishes. And  they were often ridiculous, both the games and the antics that ensued from the three of us. I often thought the reason Nintendo came out with the Wiimote was because they knew people like me and Dad would kick and move with our characters. I guess this was, and remains, my version of watching sports.)

Sorry, lots of tangents. Anyway, some things I’ve noticed while drawing:

  • Slippy’s head is really weirdly shaped! It’s like a chunky mushroom cap. Also (and yes, I
    If you don't know who I am, then GTFO! (It's Miyamoto, guys, God of Nintendo)

    If you don’t know who I am, then GTFO! (It’s Miyamoto, guys, God of Nintendo)

    know, toads and frogs are quite similar), the basic form of Slippy’s head is remarkably similar to Kermit the Frog’s. I wonder if Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of Star Fox, along with Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong, and pretty much everything awesome that Nintendo addicts grew up on, based Slippy’s design a bit on Kermit’s? I wonder if he’s even familiar with The Muppets? Now I want to hear what a Japanese Miss Piggy would sound, considering Frank Oz described Piggy as “a truck driver who desperately wants to be a bit woman” …

  • Most cartoons are drawn in the three-quarter view, and with good reason! A profile shot of a cartoon character can look awkward and not allow as much dimension to be shown.
  • I need to work on my shading, illusion of depth and implied textures
  • I also want to work on my details with his clothing (again, texture, depth)
  • When something’s not right, take a break and look to the Elements of Art and Principles of Design (I need to do a post about that, or at least have a page dedicated to them. They’re like the Holy scripture of art — which fits, seeing as religion has played such a major part in the arts throughout history.)
  • To draw the head better (yes, these are turning into notes for myself more than anything else, but continue reading, it makes me feel special :)), imagine cross contours, or even perpendicular cross sections — yay, I just merged science, math and design! — wrapping tautly around the four main points on the front, back and sides.

OK, I’m going to get back to work. Scumble on, buddies, and I’ll see you soon.

Posted in Art, Art Blog, Art Projects, Art Therapy, Cartoonists, Creativity, Drawing, Female Artists, Forms of Expression, Musings, Nintendo, PArody, Self-expression, Video games, Western NY Artists | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Scumbling Back Up the Ranks

Hey, everyone. Katie here, author of Scumbling Up Art. I am finally restarting the blog. (Go to * if you want to skip my backstory and get straight to the art.)

Why did I stop? Eh, hard to say. Several reasons, really, the most prominent being my preoccupation with starting a career and getting work. Or, at least trying to. Problem is, with Rochester, NY being the 3rd poorest city in America (yay for us, we’re now worse off than Buffalo), employment has been sparse and low-paying. To elucidate, there are teachers and people with master’s degrees who work at Wegmans for barely above minimum wage, and work an additional job or two just to get by. It is rare, in this area, to have a job that requires a college education, let alone one that pays what we once imagined a professional career would pay, even at entry-level.

(And yes, this is coming from someone who studied journalism, English and studio art at a state school, but I knew none of those subjects, individually, would lead to a stable career, so I made sure to learn as many disparate skills and programs as possible, take as many real-life opportunities as I could, and get good grades. On top of all that, I never held lofty goals, just a desire for stable, reasonable pay — something we all used to be taught was what having a college education was for, ha ha ha. My boyfriend, who specialized in PR, sports management, and theater, and has been an animal rehabilitator and professional mascot for more than a decade, has had the same problems. Shout out to him and his blog about obscure music, over at Tuning Into The Obscure. Also, he was in the news recently. Here’s the D&C article and video. And, for the record, I was the one who started calling Nick the don of the mascot world, so I beamed seeing Andreatta put that in the lead.)

Not to bitch and moan, but conditions here are deplorable and deserve to be addressed, if only for personal catharsis and to start/continue a constructive and proactive dialogue about fixing areas of the country that are failing the way Rochester is. More than half of the children in Rochester live in poverty, so imagine how poor their quality of life is. Kids go to bed hungry, and, in the same neighborhood, we have people who demand other people cut their bread for them. That’s not a hyperbole, rich and over privileged people actually demand their bread be cut at Wegmans, and poo poo the people who cut it for them. My theory is that these people are not allowed knives at home, but that’s another story entirely.

It’s not like any of us can just pick up and move to another state, since we don’t have a financial cushion for new housing and moving costs and savings to live off of until we get actual work. Hell, I’m still recovering from an injury that makes standing for more than 20 minutes or lifting anything of considerable weight nearly impossible, so we’re stuck here for now.

Anyway, Life has thrown me a lot of disturbing curve balls these last few years, so struggling to get my family its basic needs has been an ongoing problem, and things like blogs have gone to the wayside. In addition to the issues I describe above, I had a family emergency that spanned more than a year, and is kind of ongoing, really, so that ate up a bunch of my time, and played a considerable part in my injuring my back. So, I, and all of Western New York, really, have been battling some major demons these past few years.

*Which is, at least partly, where Scumbling Up Art comes back. Art is such a magnificent thing, because it can be a solution to multiple issues. Need an outlet? Want to give your left and right brain a workout? Need to sharpen your dexterity, focus, problem-solving skills? Need a way to relate to someone? Have a pressing issue that you’re fixated on but just can’t solve? Go to art. It has always been one of my utmost passions, so of course my obsessive nature is going to get the best of me and I’m going to be champing at the bit to dive back into something I love. I miss learning about art, in all of its forms, and exploring all of the mediums we use to produce expressions of ourselves, commentaries, outlets and means of communications. I miss figuring out why we choose certain mediums to convey certain things, and how one thing can have so many different meanings, even in the mind of a single individual,be it the creator or observer. Art is an experience.

Why does it mean so much to me? Until I was 10, I had a speech articulation problem, where the “r”s in words would come out as “w”s from my mouth. So, “Eric” would come out “Ewic” and “art” would be “awt.”

“What’s your favorite subject in school, Katie?”


As a result, I tended to be more reserved, because I was embarrassed, ashamed and frustrated that I could not communicate effectively with my peers or superiors. I was in Speech until I was 10 and my voice basically matured on its own. (Don’t worry, I studied three fairly disparate forms of communication in college, if I have any communication issue now it’s that I talk too fast, which is usually a deadline/caffeine/adrenaline-induced event. That part of the story has a happy ending.) Going to three different elementary schools and having few friends didn’t exactly help my case, either.

For this and a million other reasons, I hated school until I went to college and got away from the people and places that held me back or hurt me, including my turbulent upbringing (severely mentally ill mother whose symptoms emerged when I was 10, and 17, and 19, and who’s had a whole host of other related issues from then on, and a father who died of malignant melanoma that had metastasized to his stomach, lungs, brain and pancreas when I was 13 and he was 48).

One thing that got me through school, though, that I actually looked forward to, was art. It was something I could do fairly well. It  created a space where I could express myself and play with all sorts of materials and ideas. It was a way I could connect with people, make them laugh at comics I made or impress them with my skills. It started a dialogue and made me happy, though it did, at times, frustrate me because I couldn’t figure something out and fell behind everyone else skill wise. It was a safe place I could escape to when things in my life got dark. It was a way I could fit in and be accepted, what all kids want the most. It was a catharsis for me, and a means of effective communication. I love art. I’m tearing up thinking about the things I got through because of art, and the handful of caring teachers and kind souls who got me through.

Art continues to be that, and so much more, and not just for me, but for everyone, whether they know it or not. And, considering that every art is a science and every science an art, or one at least has several components of the other and vice versa, what art is can be traditional drawings, paintings, sculptures, or it can be a building, a chair, a human being, food. Art really is anything. That idea alone could be a post, so I’ll save my expansion of that idea for later. Same with art as science, science as art. So, enough of my rants and sentimental ramblings, here is a list of blog posts and art projects I’m working on (and these are notes, so if they don’t make sense to you yet, don’t worry about it):

  • Coffee Art
  • Beard Art and the competition in the arts: embraced or discouraged by artists?
  • Art as a means of (prompt?) social change; Art being the silent majority’s voice (“My role in society, or any artist’s or poet’s role, is to try and express what we all feel. Not to tell people how to feel. Not as a preacher, not as a leader, but as a reflection of us all.” — John Lennon)
  • Forms of Self Expression(Self expression, joy and competition)
  • Banksy
  • The Simpsons
  • How to stay active with the arts and still afford to have a roof over your head
  • The mind and art, art’s effect on the psyche
  • Mind F***s, Hyperrealism and Art’s Ability to Mind F*** (That Starry Night Optical Illusion, M.C. Escher, Dali)
  • Art as therapy, effectiveness compared to traditional therapies? Allows outlet for thoughts and emotions
  • Baker-Miller Pink, Fauvists and colors’ physiological effects
  • Art and culture
  • Sand castles
  • The mind, the creative process, and my neurotic hide
  • Pop art versus esoteric art/ High versus low art (Any place for high art in pop art? Sia Chandelier, Lady Gaga symbolism and mythical references blog. Performance art useless, impractical and pretentious? What is its use in society when we can’t care for our basic needs? To know we’re not alone and to push envelope to find new avenues of expression and creation? To find new methods of coping and to bring new solutions? Sia’s Chandelier — shame (actions of dancer, singer not showing face — read video as text, meanings derived from author, text, culture or reader?), jarring, exposed, volatile, kristen wiig (lived in Rochester, fun fact) age of sia, childlike silliness and mania?, “I’m sorry” mouthed in Grammy performance, maddie – child she could have had, video in grimy, dilapidated and abandoned apt v. Grammy performance, adult & kid sia or mom and child reunited, video trilogy, why choose child — androgyny? Juxtaposition? Energy and innocence?Writing on hands? Pink on leotards? YouTube comment, of all things, got me hooked in, after Jim Carey and Kate McKinnon skit on SNL — i gave in and watched the video, first rxn to video and dance was I don’t get it, so didnt know how to feel about it, wanted to learn moree,I know nothing about dance except that it is incredibly difficult and physically demanding — something a person with an L5-S1 injury appreciates and no longer takes for granted)
  • Cartoons, comics, graphic novels as adult worthy media (Persepolis, Maus, The Walking Dead) — social commentary (zombies as brain-dead consumers/Capitalists, instinctively and aggressively consuming)
  • Super Mario 64 inspired Tiny-Huge Impact Multi-Multimedia Sculpture
  • Why Link Swears/Link’s Illogical Journey (Legend of Zelda parody comic)
  • Slippy’s Grasp of Core Concepts (Star Fox 64 parody comic)
  • Mario Party GTA (comic)
  • Working for Scraps comic — clothes and food — Land of Opportunity series (“real life” comics) –What Welfare, Medicaid, TAP (temp asst prgm), Sec 8 housing, and SNAP actual are and what their shameful and grueling processes are, how demeaning and dehumanizing the requirements are to those desperate enough to get “benefits,” versus what the oblivious/overprivileged/willfully blind think they are
  • Mental Hell
  • Irish Music — tradition, history and culture of Irish (folk) music, how it’s transformed in the state to bands like Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys, and how they compare with contemporary folksy, bluesy etc. music (like Mumford and Sons, Mountain Goats, all the other trendy, back-to-our-roots angst)
  • Exploring “This Is Your Brain on Music”
  • Contemplating Cookies (fortune cookies, after meal, time of self-reflection and calm, fortune cookies NOT Asian, American made gimmick)
  • Video Games as art (series) — interactive art, narrative, cultural impact (LBP3 art- textures, details of objects and platforms, playing w/scale, use of fore- mid- and backgrounds to increase dimensions and realism, immerse player into world the game creates)
  • Art’s role in culture throughout history
  • Scenes from literary classics/my favorite books
  • Golden Age of Gaming (DKC series drawing)
  • The function of art in society
  • Does art deserve to be discarded when not even a community’s basic needs are being met?
  • Defining an artist (“I can’t sing” used to not be a thing until mass media and pro singers)
  • Art as a science, sciences as art
  • Food art
  • Clothing/style as art
  • Music
  • What constitutes art? Office art v. “genuine” art
  • Cats (because mine is having a fit right now, scratching the chair next to me because she’s always starved for attention. Happy, Gracie? You got in my blog!)
  • Contemporary art communities
  • Craft (what goes into creating something, the who, what, where, when, why and how and why/how they play a part)
  • Evolution of media and why some mediums become obsolete while others thrive (series?)
  • Why what you’re working on is never bad, it just isn’t finished (and why someone as cynical and pessimistic as me believes this)
  • Art, Politics and Religion — History of rich and powerful and the Church (also historically rich and powerful) being biggest financial supporters of the arts — art as acts of rebellion, counter-culture — cartoonists threatened and killed because of religious blasphemy — the dangers of narrow mindedness and blind faith
  • Artistic Sensibilities  — how do people who don’t have all of the 5 senses experience a work of art? If you can’t see, do you go sculptures? How do their interpretations differ from someone who can see/hear/taste/smell/feel? What can this teach us about art and the impression it makes, the experience it creates? (Blindness, Dominant Optic Atrophy)
  • Ambiance, food and mood: Oriens Cafe, architecture and design, transport you to a hidden alcove of Sicily, paint on wall (term for tat style), arches, borders, color mood atmosphere.
  • Feminism, feminist artists, and why it isn’t only about women, it’s about equality and mutual support and healthy communities
  • Scumbling as it refers to painting

OK, so I’m already having a major geek out just coming up with ideas and trying to remember everything I’ve wanted to do. You’ll see that these ideas are different from many of my previous posts. That’s because, with this reboot, I’m expanding the blog to include all mediums and multimedia. I will also go back to the basics, exploring artists, mediums, finding new Picks of The Litter, and all that good stuff. I will also use this blog to explore new art and continue learning, of course. You can also see projects I’m working on — see me struggle from conception to completion to self critique and, finally, to starting all over with another project!

I ask for patience right now, because a lot of stuff is going on behind the scenes with me, so posts may be sporadic for a while. I intend to get my Pick of the Litter feature back up at least once a month, but, again, if something like a new job comes along, my focus will be on that for a while. My main priority is keeping a roof over my head and feeding my family regularly. I do want to try to stay loosely on track, though, since this blog will serve as a means for me to organize my projects and get them completed. Some order and sanity in my life is always welcome.

Finally, I want to thank everyone who has read and supported this blog, and those who have supported me in my endeavors. It truly means so much to me, and I genuinely thank each and every person who took the time to read and comment on this blog. For the first blog I ever made, it got great reception — tons of views and an incredibly supportive community. That kind of support and encouragement is rare in the real world nowadays, making me see why so many people gravitate towards online communities. Everyone who commented gave thoughtful and kind comments and suggestions, and I can’t wait to hear from you guys and see what ideas and reactions you’ll have! To not have had to deal with any trolling is, again, remarkable (though, it is a niche blog on WordPress, so I guess it’d take too much effort for trolls to find me and make a point of getting to me. Gotta love the anonymity and lack of accountability the Internet affords everyone! :p)

So scumble on back, guys, ’cause this geek out is about to go into full swing.

IMG_20150327_212140110(Damn it, she got in here again!)

Posted in Art, Art Blog, Art Criticism, Art Projects, Art Therapy, Female Artists, Satire, Self-expression, Social Commentary, Social Satire, Western NY Artists | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Scumbling Out the Final Chapter

My loyal readers, this will be my last blog post for Scumbling Up Art.

However, do not fret, because I am hoping to go on to explore more art, artists, cultures and the awe-inspiring spectacle of life in general.

So, as Frank Sinatra said, “The best is yet to come.”

I want to thank every single one of you who took the time to read — or even just glance at — this blog and those who commented on it. I did not receive one negative criticism and I find that amazing, especially since people, knowing they will most likely not be “caught” being cruel or inappropriate on the Internet, are willing to be more open and, let’s face it, mean online. So thank you all, again, for sharing your insightful, thoughtful and inspiring opinions. It’s you guys who are the muses of the world.

So, I will keep scumbling on, and I hope you all will do the same with whatever art, craft or hobby you love and can share with others.

Follow me on Twitter to see what I’m up to.

Thanks. Scumble on. Love you all. Peace out.

Posted in Art, Blog, Scumbling, Twitter, Writing | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Scumbling up ideas for future posts

Hey, all. Happy New Year!

I’ve seen that my blog has made a ripple in the ever-growing lake of art criticism (forgive the bad analogy, I’m on break from school). Hence, I’m inspired to continue my ranting insights about the myriad of creative endeavors that sprout up by the 100s on a daily basis.

I already have three topics in the works, so check back here soon for furture posts and Picks of the Litter.

As always, keep scumbling on, my friends.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Be an artist: make a mess!

“Be an artist: make a mess!” This is not a derogatory statement, it’s the anthem of Creatives (many of whom may be self-deprecating, but that’s another story).

Here’s the rule of thumb when creating something: it’s never bad, it just isn’t finished.

"You Know as Much as I Do," Katie Gill (Me), mixed media, 2009

“You Know as Much as I Do,” Katie Gill (Me), mixed media, 2009

I write, I report, I paint, I draw, I take pictures and I sculpt. I know what I’m talking about.

I’m about to toss advice at you. Be ready with your implement of choice.

Art criticism: before you attack your work with a sledgehammer and flame thrower, consider why you are frustrated or displeased with your work.

First off — and I say this as a temperamental artist who has had MANY issues with her works throughout the years — back away from the piece-in-progress. The last thing you want to do is destroy what you’ve worked so hard on because you’re having a bad day or you have artist’s block.

Then again, maybe destroying the piece could give you an idea. Art is intuitive, improvised and serendipitous like that.

Check out this link about how to assess artwork from a semi-objective stance:

Close up


Also, don’t lock your work up in the attic. Art is self-expression: let other people enjoy it! Furthermore, it helps a thousand-fold to have another pair of eyes critique your work. Others can spot something you’ve missed and can make brilliant suggestions.

Loosen up. Let your imagination take over. Play. Experiment and make mistakes. Constantly question and challenge your designs and style. Don’t think, just do it. The right side of your brain needs to be fed with artwork, so neurosis starves it.

Enjoy the sunshine and SCUMBLE ON!!!!! Just make sure you take a break and let yourself off the hook every once in a while.

Posted in Art, Art Advice, Art Criticism, Conceptual Art, Creativity, definition of art, Female Artists, Forms of Expression, Inspiration, Musings, Self-expression, Types of Art, What is Art?, Young Artists | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Scary talented: the story behind the story behind the art


Here’s a cautionary tale about an artist with exquisite talent and endless potential.

This is a true story.

hitler-paintingHe was a charismatic man.

But he would only allow HIS voice to be heard, HIS story to be history. According to him and his brain-dead, immoral followers, only HE was right, only HIS perspective was accurate.

A person cannot be an artist if he is so closed-minded and domineering.

Except, perhaps a con artist, which this man kind of was:  he could brain wash the best of them with his quick-thinking and fast talking, no matter how absurd or evil his ideas were.

The sad part is, even Disney has incorporated this man’s persona into some of its work. Watch the marching hyenas in “Be Prepared” if you don’t believe me.

Being famous is not being infamous; light is not dark.

Adolf Hitler was a talented young artist.

Adolf Hitler was charismatic.

Adolf Hitler was the catalyst behind the slaughter of more than 6 million people.hitler1

Art is,  first and foremost,  a mode of expression. It is emotion-based.

Hate is not art. Hate is a form of propaganda that perpetuates ignorance and misery. “Be Prepared” to deal with the Hell you have created for yourself if you’re going to be the next Scar.

So scumble on to spread the love.

Take care, all.

Posted in Art, Art Criticism, definition of art, Forms of Expression, Musings, Oil Painting, painting, Perspective, Watercolors, What is Art? | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Deviants deserve a home to scumble in

hbi__teaser_2__by_machschauWAIT! Don’t pick from another litter!

You might see some scars, missing paws  or even — God forbid — a snaggletooth in the bunch, but this box of pups is a superb group.atlas_by_maximilianayvert

In fact, it’s today’s Pick of the Litter.

DeviantART: no doubt the name sounds redundant to avant-gardes or expressionists, but the Web site is, nonetheless, extraordinary.

Don’t believe me? Click the link:


So, A) What does this site contain? and B) who makes the works displayed on it?

According to the site, DeviantART is “where art meets application.” I’ve noticed several digital images and Anime-like sketches, so that may help define the slogan.

I’m going to be honest here, people (which is SUCH A STRAY from my usual conduct ;)): I’m not sure what the purpose of this site is.

Nevertheless, the art on it is amazing and the artists are talented beyond words (do you SEE the pics I’ve incorporated into this post?!).

Fans can apparently show off their work, as well and you can follow deviantART on Twitter.

So, at the very least, check out the site to spark your imagination and appreciate the pieces on exhibit in the virtual gallery.

masferrer_by_rodi0nea8a3fdc36de15f07a88a001921158d4I’m sold. I was a deviant anyways, so it’s fitting there is an artist’s association with that name.

Scumble on and, for crying out loud, go outside and enjoy the sunshine (if there is any)!

Computers can’t give you hugs, folks, so meet up with some friends.

Take care, everybody!

Posted in Anime, Art, deviantART, Images, Pick of the Litter, Visuals | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Kids scumble up art!

2008-76I almost pounced onto my bed and danced when I found out kids are supporting the arts — with their own artwork!

(Sniff) I’m so proud of the little tykes.

I typed in “fresh artists” on Google and up pops a site with that exact name.

According to the organization’s Web site, Fresh Artists has:



  • Creative kids give images of their artwork to raise funds to help other kids in their community.


  • Corporations give directly to keep art making alive for under-resourced kids in Philadelphia.


  • Kids give highly desirable artwork back to corporate donors to display in corporate spaces.

The collages from some of these youngsters is inspirational.

Yeah, yeah about the corporate donations. Yay, wealthy benefactors for the2008-71 arts — that’s not news. The people who matter are the ones bettering their communities: the kids!


Next time Joey draws on the wall or Linda makes a mess with leaves and mud, don’t scold the kid, join in! Free-flowing creative juices are doing phenomenal things for our society!

 As the site states, this is “student-centric philanthropy.” They should be teaching THAT in school (sadly, especially in secondary and tertiary schools).

“Empowering young lives through art” is one of the noblest causes there is. Everyone needs a way to express him or herself, especially future starving artists ;).

They’re scumbling on. I’m rolling on the floor with glee. Sorry, give me a moment.


Until next time: take care, all.2008-72

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Just a pup: today’s Pick of the Litter

I’m usually bitter and jealous towards  those dang prodigy kids.paint_footsteps-eternity

Sometimes you see them on Jeopardy: They know  Aristotle’s Rhetoric better than paint_creationa kindergartner knows the ABCs, yet you trump them on questions regarding pop culture, literature and video games.

Aren’t you proud when you beat a 12-year-old?

But this kid’s different.

Akiane Kramarik is today’s Pick of the Litter, though she’s not yet old enough to drive a car.


But she can paint better than most of us could ever wish.


Born on July 9, 1994, Kramarik is a virtuoso in both the artist and literary circuits.

paint_freedomhorseYou might be jealous about that if you’re been struggling paint_thequantumworldpaint_supremesanctuaryfor years to break into either community of Creatives, but look at these works and feel the bitterness drip away as youpaint_entry simmer in awe.

Though I’d not a big fan of religious art, Kramarik’s works paint_nerve-cellprove the exception.  Her pieces are magnificent and majestic.


paint_searchfortruthpaint_trustpaint_unknowntravelerUntil next time: scumble on.

Posted in Art, Child Prodigies, Female Artists, painting, Pick of the Litter, Up-and-Coming Artists | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Etch or sketch? An artist’s weapon of choice

“The pen is mightier than the sword.” Of course: a pen can get into those hard-to-reach areas.



 But, seriously, The Pick of the Litter for today is not merely someone who draws. It’s not even


an artist: it’s a community of them.wonfive1




 Considering how many Web sites exist — I don’t even what to think about it — choosing one site from the lot is much more arduous than choosing a prize pooch from a box of newly-born artist-pups, as I have been.












 First off, make sure to visit It’s a Web site that is “connecting people through art & design.” Art unites us like that.







I’m going to try something different here, since experimentation IS part of the creative process. Instead of writing about the pieces I post, I’m just going to let them speak for themselves.marrakesh__1__bajas1


What’s the worse that could happen? I scumble? You scumble? WE scumble?


So here are some works from various artists on Artlog. Go to the site for more details about these pieces.






Do it, I dare ya: scumble on. You know you want to.              nudell_zoe_041Theblackdamp

Posted in Art, Artlog, Images, Pick of the Litter, Types of Art, Up-and-Coming Artists, Visuals | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Scumbler!

Have you been scumbling on a regular basis?

scumblingI should be smart here: for those of you who aren’t obsessed with the arts like I am, scumbling is a form of shading which is, as best as I can describe it, random scribbling.

Other forms of shading include hatching, cross-hatching, stippling and pure shading or blending.


hatchingHatching is putting parallel lines next to each other. The closer the lines, the darker the shadow and the nearer to the actual object. The same goes with any drawing: the shadow becomes lighter as it gets farther away from the subject.


cross-hatchingCross-hatching is using perpendicular lines for the same ends, so the result looks like a grid.



stipplingStippling is using dots to create shadow. It is a GREAT method to use when you are frustrated or angry with your piece ;).




Finally, pure shading is flat-out blackening of the area where the shadow goes. And blending is self-explanatory.

A scumble a day keeps blandness away.


katie1*All the visuals used in this blog were made by me, Katie. (I have to make sure I cover my butt so I don’t sue myself for copyright infringement ;).

Posted in Art, Drawing, Female Artists, Scumbling, Shading | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Graffiti: defacing the streets or making art with a beat?

Graffiti: noun, “(used with a plural verb) markings, as initials, slogans, or drawings, written, spray-painted, or sketched on a sidewalk, wall of a building or public restroom, or the like: These graffiti are evidence of the neighborhood’s decline.” –

What’s wrong with this linguistic picture? Why is graffiti considered vandalism?

I’ll go out on a limb here and say most of you have never played Jet Set Radio Future.

Jet Set Radio Future, XBOX

Jet Set Radio Future, XBox

 It’s an awesome game with unique graphics. Sure, like any video game it gets redundant at times and its controls are kind of stiff (I won’t bother elaborating: I’m aware this isn’t Nintendo Power magazine).

However, the game’s main characters use a different method to complete the adventure: they spray graffiti to protest and save the day.

See how important art is in our everyday lives? It keeps the world from collapsing within itself and its inhabitants from beating each other over the head with cans of spray paint.


But, seriously, haven’t you ever driven through a tunnel or gone by a wall  in a bustling city, seen graffiti and thought to yourself, “That’s amazing”? 

It makes buildings stand out, gives them life, a heartbeat. It’s like when a kid draws on a wall but, you know, good.

 And, I just found this out when I did research for this post, “graffiti” is derived from the word “graffito” which is Italian for, “A drawing or inscription made on a wall or other surface, usually so as to be seen by the public.”

 An artist, therefore, has an intention for producing graffiti.

 Even if it’s just to keep him or herself scumbling on.

Which is ALWAYS a more-than-sufficient motive.

Posted in Art, definition of art, Forms of Expression, Graffiti, Types of Art, What is Art? | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A word is worth a lifetime of pictures

Can words leave a greater impact than images?

Time to find out.

Sometimes visuals are more effective than mere words (the artist said, tapping her 4B pencil on her laptop as she wrote, itching to get back to a drawing board.)1065252_hand_writing

I write, I read, I draw, I paint, I report and I converse. So it’s safe to say I know bits and pieces about several forms of communication.

Here’s my take: the way a story beats a work of art is, if written well, the story lets the reader fill in the blank and use his or her imagination to produce a world the writer hints at but allows endless interpretations of.

1167352_colored_pencilsHowever, with a work of art, the viewer can produce endless stories depending on what aspects he or she focuses on. But the image, in its entirety, is fixed.

Then again, the “show, don’t tell” model is in effect for any form of communication, mainly so when you’re trying to tell a person something, he doesn’t stare at you blankly, shake his head like a wet dog drying itself off and say, brow furrowed, “What?!”.

Concrete versus abstract: how do you express shame? You walk hunched over and don’t make any eye contact. There’s a visual.

329000_shameBut what is shame? Why do we feel it? Is it necessary? Does it mean the same thing to you as it does to your best friend? Shame is an idea that is on the medium-high level of the Abstract Concepts Spectrum, above the more tangible sock but below the loaded term “freedom.”

Shame is a word you could spend your life depicting in your work and never be drained of ideas because its meaning is unstable because it does not have a definitive image to back it up.

See what I mean?

I think we all need to feed our imaginations every day, no matter the circumstances, so that we have an escape  route. So, here’s a feast of 21 great quotes by artists and/or about art. I had said it would be 10 in my last post, but art cannot be constrained, it must be improvised as the artist feels is appropriate.

“With all of the human darkness that we are surrounded by, and all that we bring upon ourselves, the fact that we can still be moved by beauty is the only hope we have. That dichotomy is what turns an artist on; the balance between the sacred and the profane.”   Julie Taymor, Creator of ‘The Lion King’ on Broadway

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”   Thomas Merton, philosopher1170183_waterway_1

“Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we’re being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I’m liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That’s what’s insane about it.” John Lennon 

“Practically all great artists accept the influence of others. But … the artist with vision sees his material, chooses, changes and by integrating what he has learned with his own experiences, finally molds something distinctly personnel.”   Romare Howard Bearden, artist

“Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.”   Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

“There’s no retirement for an artist, it’s your way of living so there’s no end to it.” Henry Moore

“Art is everywhere, except it has to pass through a creative mind.”   Louise Nevelson (1899-1988 – U.S. Sculptor)

1154651_windcatcherThe emotions are sometimes so strong that I work without knowing it. The strokes come like speech.”Vincent van Gogh

“Art is man determined to die sane.”   Bernard DeVoto

“A painter paints the appearance of things, not their objective correctness, in fact he creates new appearances of things.” Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

“Art is the demonstration that the ordinary is extraordinary.”   Amedee Ozenfant, Author of Foundations of Modern Art

“Do not let the appearance of conditions stop you – go on anyway. Everything depends on those who go on anyway!”   Robert Henri, author of “The Way of the Spirit.”

“Life is the art of drawing sufficient conclusions from insufficient premises.”   Samuel Butler

“I think the artist has to be something like a whale, swimming with his mouth wide open, absorbing everything until he has what he really needs.”   Bearden Romare, artist

“There is an art finer than music, sculpture and other fine arts. the art of living. Your responsibility as an artist is greater…to bring harmony and beauty to others.”   Sathya Sai Baba

“It has been said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world.”   Chaos Theory1095634_desperate_couple_1_

“An artist can not fail. It is a success to be one.”   Charles Horton Cooley

“My brain is not as reliable as my heart.”   Terri English, artist

“Making the inner world meet the outer world is the function of the artist.”   Joseph Campbell

“We all know that art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand.”   Pablo Picasso (1881-1973 Spanish painter)

“Although many meanings cluster round the word masterpiece, it is above all the work of an artist of genius who has been absorbed by the spirit of the time in a way that has made his individual experience universal.”   Kenneth Clark

My point? Communicating inevitably means affecting your community.

For more musings that might serve as future muses, visit

As for my original question, can words leave a greater impact than images, I say it depends on the context, so yes and no.

That, however, is no excuse for any of us not to scumble on. Take care, all.

Posted in Art, Forms of Expression, Images, Inspiration, Musings, Quotes, Types of Art, Visuals, What is Art?, Words | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t pick from the litter: sculpt from it

I’m not sure about you, but when I don’t know much about a piece of artwork, I have a default response: I like it because of its aesthetic value.

 Today’s Pick of the Litter is Jane Darin’s relief sculpture, “Paul.”

"Paul," Jane Darin, relief sculpture

"Paul," Jane Darin, relief sculpture

I chose this piece because of its aesthetic value. In other words, and in all seriousness (I know: scary),  it looked nice and immediately grabed my attention.

“Paul” is beautiful. I’m not saying he’s Brad Pitt in Fight Club — both a movie and book worth investing your time in, by the way. I mean the sculpture functions as art because it depicts the artist’s interpretation of the model. In other words, it characterizes the model, animates him like Disney animates Donald Duck.

Darin crafts life into this figure by giving him pensive, pained features. Paul’s eyes are locked onto something, either in front of him or in his mind, and I consider myself fortunate not to see what he does. Good artists draw your attention to their work using such methods.

Darin individualizes Paul using details, making him human and, therefore, a work of art.

She has several life-like projects.

"Untitled" by Jane Darin

"Untitled" by Jane Darin

The more colorful ones sort of … scare the hell outta me. I think they remind me of that blood-red puppet-woman from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.

I shudder at the thought. 

AAAHHHHH! Lady Elaine from Mr. Roger's Neighborhood! Somebody burn it!

AAAHHHHH! Lady Elaine from Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood! Somebody burn it!

Next time: the top 10 qoutes about art, and some inspiring visuals.

Good night, and don’t forget to scumble!

Posted in Female Artists, Pick of the Litter, Realism, Sculpture | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments


Have you ever made anything from Popsicle sticks? You could be the next sculpting virtuoso. Or maybe even the next Matt Groening!

(I call him Woodrow. He's from stock.xchng)

(I call him Woodrow. He's from stock.xchng)

If you’re a true artist, you can use whatever’s available and create something from it. As the character Mark Cohen from the movie version of Rent said, “The opposite of war isn’t peace, it’s creation.”   

When a person makes a mental assosication between an object and an idea and then shapes  it into a physical representation, the result is art in its core sense.

<– This guy, girl, um … androgynous figure has DNA spliced from Gumby and a rigid, “board” stiff stick figure. That’s art.

However, we’re not all experts. I know I’m not. I just like to make a mess and say, retrospectively, “I was expressing myself.” For example, I didn’t destroy the wall, I CREATED a hole in it  ;).

But we can learn! And I’ll tell you the bits and pieces I know about three types of paints: oil, water and acrylic.

1. Oil Paint — This stuff is usually heavily diluted with paint thinner and needs to be used in a LARGE, HIGHLY-VENTILATED ROOM. (I’ve used it at the beginning of June inside a tiny bedroom that had an oscillating fan and open window: not a smart move.)

Janne Matter, "Solo," Oil Paint

Janne Matter, "Solo," Oil Painting

Also, oil paints take a LONG time to dry, months, possibly even up to a year. But this medium is usually the best for amateurs like me to use if they want to produce a realistic-looking piece with relative ease.

2. Watercolors — stay out of the rain if you want to use these bad boys! Or the wind. Or any sort of inclement weather, really. Watercolor paint is heavily diluted by our friend H2O, though, like oils or acrylics, it can be used

Julia Swartz, "Two Apples," Watercolor Painting

Julia Swartz, "Two Apples," Watercolor Painting

straight from the tube to create certain effects.

Water colors dry two or three values lighter than when you apply them, so multiple coats may be needed. Moreover, the colors bleed into each other easily if neither is dry, so imperfect lines and lighter colors are the general trademarks of a watercolor painting.


3. Acrylic — Do not dump these down the drain after using them! They plasticize and will harden within the pipes like cholesterol clogs an artery. Unlike watercolors, acrylic paint dries two to three shades darker than when originally applied. And it is not transparent or translucent — meaning semi-see-through — like watercolor. Still, it is often brighter than oil paint, though the finished product might not be as precisely rendered as it could be if it had been created with oils.

Then again, if you practice until you’re uncomfortable without a paintbrush in your hand, these pros and cons won’t be too much of an issue foryou — certainly nothing that would stop you from becoming engrossed in your paintings, no matter what level of skill you’re at.

Sara Dees, "Guran Gardens," Acrylic Painting

Sarah Dees, "Guran Gardens 1," Acrylic Painting

That’s all I have for you today, everyone.

Scumble up, out, diagonally, around the bend and, most importantly: scumble on.

Posted in Acrylic Paint, Art, Creativity, Forms of Expression, Oil Painting, painting, Watercolors | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Catapult into action with today’s Pick of the Litter

If you turn Shoots & Ladders into an explosive field of glacial landslides and river rapids, you still won’t come close to Ali Banisadr’s work, which is today’s Pick of the Litter


This painting (dead link, now — SORRY!) came from the New York Academy of Arts Fresh from the Studio: Selected paintings from the Cafe Gallery. The site does not specify what medium the artist used, but I would guess by the piece’s texture Banisadr used oil paint. (See my next post for how to tell the difference between water paint, oil paint and acrylics) The title of the piece and the year it was made are also unlisted on the NYAA Web site.

What makes this piece work is its sonic pace, which creates visual chaos. Banisadr’s paint strokes zip around like an atom, causing the viewer’s eyes to dash with them. Even though the images are blurred, the artist uses clean, thick lines of paint to perpetuate the zooming effect.

This apparent war zone then halts to a stop at the blackened canyon in the center of the foreground. Also notice the figure in that area, his or her foot splashing into a deep puddle. Perhaps Banisadr is making a statement: war inevitably results in casualties, so why not plummet to your death now? Or maybe that’s my hyper-liberal interpretation … ;).

With that happy thought, I’ll end today’s post and urge you all to scumble, stipple, hatch and cross-hatch.

Posted in Art, Oil Painting, Pick of the Litter, Up-and-Coming Artists | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“That cereal state of mind”

Those who do not believe cartoons can be fine art have never come across Lynda Barry’s work.

Lynda Barry self portrait

Lynda Barry, self-portrait

A well-established cartoonist, graphic novelist and author, Lynda Barry exudes honest, insightful humor and sage-like wisdom in the majority, if not all, of her pieces.

And, if there is one word to describe her, “animated” fits like a pair of striped short-shorts and the unwavering need for mood stabilizers fit Richard Simmons (I think I made fun of him in a past post — oh well, the analogy works; it stays).

Abiding by her code of sharp imagery and spontaneity, Barry IS living art. Hell, she even looks like the cartoons she draws of herself.

(So what does the title of this post have to do with ANYTHING, Katie?)

Well, imaginary reader, in short: everything and nothing. Barry said “that cereal state of mind” during an interview for The College at Brockport’s Writers Forum — of which I am the assistant this year and, therefore, help tape the interviews, if you doubt my credibility.

I love the way she speaks: with such candor, exuberance and image-drenched language.

She is also unpredictable and, frankly, a little on the raunchy side ;).

Back to the title. She was, I if heard correctly, referring to the deep focus a person has when he or she is absorbed in something that he or she reacts to on an intuitive level, like a child gets enveloped (sometimes literally) in finger paints.

Type Lynda Barry’s name into a search engine and I promise you: you’ll have your expectations exceeded, even if they were higher than they’ve been in a long time.

Lynda Barry is someone I would be proud to emulate. What about you?

Scumble on, my creative posse.

Posted in Art, Cartoonists, Creativity, Female Artists, Forms of Expression, Graphic Novels | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Identifying with the Outcast

Well, this one’s different.

It’s not the pick of the litter in the traditional sense, but I love it because of that: it’s unique, it has CHARACTER.

Today’s Pick of the Litter is Colleen Keough’s piece, Face 2, a print produced in 2009, at


Think of the scene in Chuck Palahniuk’s book Invisible Monsters  where the protagonist has bandages on her face and is trying to speak without a jaw — disturbing yet fascinating.

According to Keough’s site, “As a performer I [Keough] magnify the stereotypes and personas I find within my own personality and belief structures. By bringing these characters to the surface and highlighting their emotional and psychological states, I provide a cultural looking glass in which the viewer is able to identify the false encryptions imbedded within gender roles and language.”

So that’s her take. I prize this piece because it: 1) warrants a reaction from the viewer and 2) can be interpreted in a myriad of ways. Plus, it’s cool how a print can freak you out like this ;).

To see more imaginative work from Keough, check out

I’ll blog back soon. Take care.

Posted in Art, Conceptual Art, Female Artists, Prints, What is Art? | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Today’s Pick of the Litter Hates His Art Piece!

What does it mean when one critic loves a work of art but another loathes it? Is the piece successful because it produces an adrenaline rush of emotion regardless of the viewer’s opinion?

No doubt the stakes are raised when the disappointed party is the artist himself.

Now, to call this work a masterpiece is unfair to the artist, because I am unfamiliar with the bulk of his work. However, I was livid when I read his blog, which states,  “As you see[,] my imagination had decided to go for a walk without me so I came up with this ‘miserable’ macro of some plain shell bracelet. Please be lenient with me.”

WHAT???!!!! Is he being sarcastic with the quotes around “miserable”?

First, here’s the work:

"'Macro' Shell Braclet" by Carlos Lorenzo, Photograph

“‘Macro’ Shell Bracelet” by Carlos Lorenzo, Photograph

It’s freaking gorgeous! I’m outraged, I truly am. Art makes you look at things differently, both literally and intellectually. By zooming up on this object, Lorenzo has you experience the smooth texture, intricate swirls, individual differences of each shell and the simple yet elegant pattern of the bracelet. Come on, Carlos! This piece is fabulous (I’m fuming over here — don’t disparage what I love).

What’s superb about this piece is its association with the human body due to the blown-up dimensions. The smooth, pearly exterior can be seen as teeth, and from the angle Lorenzo shot this pic, you get the sensation of impending bite marks. And the coiling in the middle: inner ears! the cochlea, which allows us to hear, has a spiral shape like a shell.

But, apparently, Lorenzo doesn’t think that’s good enough.

I’ m gagging with disgust at the artist’s comment. Go see his work to fully appreciate my retching:

Thanks for reading. Scumble on!

Posted in Art, Art Criticism, Creativity, definition of art, Larger-than-life art (macro art), Photography, Up-and-Coming Artists | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

In the Moment, the Wild Moment

Only in art can a polar bear be convincingly pummeled by paint.

Perhaps in an arctic paintball field, as well …


Today’s Pick of the Litter is wildlife artist Clifford VanMeter. His work in progress, “Partners in the Dine” is an impressionist painting of what appears to be two polar bears — or a polar bear and a fox (check out Clifford’s blog and see what you come up with: This piece captures the feeling — or impression — of the moment with color, variety and short, fast brushstrokes better than any photograph could.

VanMeter’s outline sketch alone is impressive. You can sense the movement of the wind, it’s oppressive pressure pushing the animals, both of which are predators. Thus, the title of this piece is poetic. The brushstrokes and colors make me think of a Monet in the day of global warming. The occasional red and blue streaks of paint further propel the idea of a frigid arctic and the carnivorous nature of the animals.

Thanks for reading. And for those of you still surrounded by the winter frost: keep warm!

Posted in Art, Impressionism, Up-and-Coming Artists, Wildlife Art | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Art: The Jenga of Creativity

Screw it: this post is going to be discussion-oriented. We learn best by listening to each other and being in a constant dialogue with ourselves, our communities, our societies and our cultures. And creative types should learn that way because we all possess some form of creativity.

Art is like Jenga: it is composed of various elements and built on principles that, if not used effectively, will make the piece topple over.

But therein lies my question: what constitutes art? I wrote a ranting poem last year with that title, and I had no answer. Should literature be considered art? Are only certain types allowed? How about music? Is there a domain separating each sphere of creativity, or do they all end up enmeshed in the way one watercolor bleeds into another? Salvador Dali once said, “Those who do not want to imitate anything produce nothing.”

So what I want to know is what you think. What do you define as art? Does it have to have a social commentary? Can something be called art because you just instinctively know it is, because you get a gut reaction to it? I’d actually say yes to that. What about youse guys? Does art have to be serious? Does the artist have to have an intention, a certain desired outcome, for his or her work to be considered art? Here’s an example:


Salvador Dali, “Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War),” 1936


I think both of these are masterpieces on multiple levels.

I’ll go back to my Pick of the Litter next time. I just like feedback, even if it’s Web-oriented (sometimes we’re more honest when we’re anonymous behind our computer screens, right?).

Thanks for reading, guys! Hope to hear from you in the comments section. Take care.

Posted in Art, Creativity, Forms of Expression, Types of Art, What is Art? | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment