Went to Social Drawing Group today at Mission Creek Cafe. The core group was there (Leena, Amaroq, Barney the Dog, and Myself). As a result, the conversation was juicier than usual since we've all known each other for years. The group was true to its name, and we all drew or painted or both for the entire two hours as we talked. This is what I did---watercolor with pencil and a little pen over the watercolor. No work tomorrow, so the afternoon segued into the evening. Leena and I met a traveler/photographer on the corner with some fabulous photos of Cuba from 2002 and 2004. We were on Valencia Street, Ground Zero for the Google People, so we spent a fair amount of time analyzing the Google People. They certainly are less noticeable than the dot-commers of the late 90s. I think there's more humility in this crowd. The dot-commers of the first dot-com boom arrogantly thought there was no end to the wealth. My sense is that this new group knows how vulnerable they are. The new bubblette could burst tomorrow. We ended the evening at a great Ethiopian restaurant.
I want to write a little about “the trial” during the period when the paranoia is wearing off, but the edginess hasn’t. What a strange experience. I wasn’t physically sequestered, but I was emotionally sequestered. I couldn’t talk about the trial to anyone outside the courtroom. I couldn’t talk to the other jurors about anything beyond pleasantries. I talked to the cats a little, but they didn’t really understand.
What goes on in the courtroom is a form of art, but it’s also a blood sport (without the blood). It’s a theatrical performance, but it’s also like the Indonesian shadow puppet plays: the artistic arena where society gets to act out its shadow side. The shadow is definitely present in the drama of the American courtroom. It’s also like a gladiator battle. It was sort of disturbing to me that, as time went on, I found myself gearing up for the enjoyment of watching one lawyer or another marching up to the witness for cross examination. Going for the jugular. I felt like that scene in Lawrence of Arabia where he executes a man and afterwards says, “There was something about it I didn’t like.” When questioned about what that something was, he answered, “…that I enjoyed doing it.” I’ve been doing some pencil sketches of the whole process, but here’s the finished cartoon that I submitted to Union Action. The reason for the title “The Lost Season” is that I really felt like I lost an entire season of my life. It all started on September 3, when it was still hot and summery, and it ended on October 24, a week before the time change. There was also a bit of an aftermath, but that’s another story.
I just got a Wacom tablet (which is now called something else), so I can draw my scratchy little black lines in Photoshop. For those who don’t know what that is, it’s like being able to use a pen (with as fine or as thick a line as you want) right on your images on the computer. My artist friends have been encouraging to think of my sketchbook art as art, rather than crazy doodles that the world will never see. I’ve been experimenting with scanning images into the computer and cleaning them up a bit in Photoshop (My sketchbook pages often have nice images on them, but they also have scribbly notes about god knows what, and it’s necessary to get some of those notes off the page and often replace them with something else, such as my scratchy black lines.) This has been awkward, if not impossible when trying to use my finger as my pen on the trackpad. With the Wacom tablet, problem solved! I’ve known about these things for years, but didn’t know how cheap they were. Anyway, now I’m happy, happy, happy. I’m going to try to upload some images, so you can see how an image can be transformed from a sketchbook page, to a page without all the crazy notes all over them, and then cropped into a smaller image for a greeting card or whatever.
Blogging is kind of a self-conscious activity because it’s completely available to the public, including many people that the blogger knows, but one also doesn’t know who’s reading it. It’s like being behind a one way mirror. But “they” tell me that it’s important to do it as part of getting my art out there (even if it feels a little weird), so I’m going to carry on. It’s always been hard for me to separate the political from the personal (and the artistic), so I’m not going to worry about mixing it all together. The crisis at City College has overshadowed the month of July for me and for others who work or study there. I was fortunate to be able to go to Oregon for the first two and a half weeks after the announcement that the ACCJC is revoking our accreditation. I’ve been back for about ten days. The first couple of days, I was just glad to be home. Then reality about the work situation set in, and I’ve been passing through all kinds of different emotions. Denial. Sadness. Anger. I haven’t gotten to bargaining or acceptance yet. Sleep hasn’t been great. Sometimes I feel hit with waves of exhaustion, but I feel fortunate that I haven’t been suffering from major insomnia in spite of the fact that my work/financial future is on the line. One of the hardest things about this “crisis” is the message behind the ACCJC decision that I, as a teacher, am of no value. When I am able to get out of my own little world, I can see that this attitude of "devaluation" extends to all of the students who need City College, particularly the most vulnerable ones. Often I feel helpless, but I know that there will be actions to fight for my profession and for the students. Art helps a lot. Cats help a lot. Walking on the beach right outside my door helps too. The other day, someone said that it is possible for us to turn this thing around. That the odds are heavily stacked against us, but it is possible. Artwise, I’m looking ahead to Zinefest on Labor Day weekend. In addition to my book, I have promised to sell cat-related art, so I’m working with cat images from my sketchbook in Photoshop, and I’ll post at least one of them here. Oh, and PS. We got paid today with our new 5% permanent pay cut. The irony is that it feels like a raise. The first six months of this year, our paychecks have been small and unpredictable. There was a temporary paycut and a retroactive paycut. (I still don’t understand how a retroactive paycut can be legal). Together that has equaled an 11% paycut. On top of that, for me, an additional $134 has been deducted from every other paycheck as some additional retroactive thing that I never really figured out. Also, “they” decided that it was a good time to switch from a biweekly to a monthly pay, and to transition into the new system we’ve had to wait a month and five days between paychecks. I guess now we can at least expect to get paid on the first of the month. For the next year anyway. Meow.
Click here for more cats.
I started off 2013 right by landing in Paris on New Years Day. Paris seems to kickstart my art. I’d spent a few months of June there a few years back (before the cats, the condo, and the paycuts) and I wrote in my journal that it was like being in a giant art bath. On my most recent trip, I was there for a little over a week. It was different from my trips to Paris in the summer, when it stays light until 11PM. In the winter, it’s dark and drizzly, and I spent most of my time alone on this particular trip. I knew I’d want electronic company, so I brought my computer (a first for me), and signed up for a couple of meetup groups before and during my trip. I ended up with a meetup drawing group twice---once in an art studio for an “intuitive drawing workshop,” and once at the Louvre. When I returned to the USA, I ended up joining three more art meetup groups (in addition to the Graphic Novel group that I’ve been in for a few years). The most noteworthy is Alameda Artists, a group of highly energized and supportive artists, who have taught me, among other things, that my pages and pages of “mindless” sketching are works of art in and of themselves. This particular sketch was started at a Graphic Novel meetup at our usual hangout in San Francisco. (I was so mesmerized by my friend, Amaroq’s, double paged drawings that I kind of copied her layout—thanks, Amaroq), and did a lot of the rest of it at Alameda Artists meetups. Thanks to all of my art friends, new and old. It’s great to be an artist among artists.
I met with two different art groups this weekend. On Saturday, I went to Rodeo Beach with the SF Sketchers. I learn so much from drawing with other people. A few weeks ago, I saw someone create a frame on a page and draw within it, so I tried it out this weekend. It made the drawing much more manageable, and left some room on the page for writing, too. I love the show and tell after the drawing sessions too. Drawing in nature is much more in my comfort zone than indoor drawing scenes. But it's good to draw in areas outside one's comfort zone. I remember the day that I learned how to draw water. It was June, 2002 in the South of France. Now "water" is part of my drawing vocabulary. Then today (Sunday), I met with my Graphic Novel Group in our usual cafe in San Francisco, and while talking, I did the watercolor below of the same scene from memory.
Yesterday, I went to the Alameda Ferry with a new sketching group. I spent about an hour doing the black and white drawing of the crane above. After I gained an intimate knowledge of the crane, I was able to do a quick pen/watercolor sketch. Afterwards we went to a cafe and talked about art for a couple of hours. Sketching in a group seems to be one of the best ways for me to live in the present and to forget about all of the complications of "real life." This is a great skill to have during this time of crisis at City College. I've also been working on a City College cartoon off and on all weekend. I feel grateful that I'm still able to have this outlet and do these cartoons. It feels like the stakes are higher now in publishing truly honest work about what's going on at CCSF. The current administration is not known for its ability to laugh at itself. Oh, I'm also going to try to put a link of the photograph of the crane.
There’s no getting around it. The only way to be successful at art (and by success, I simply mean to get something done.) is to sit in the studio and do it. The “studio” can be a real studio, your kitchen table, or a nice spot in a café. And if you haven’t done it in awhile, it’s the last thing in the world you want to do. And there are all kinds of excuses. Most of them involve other stuff that you “have to” do, but they can also be about weird noises, temperatures, or the fact that the kitty litter is several feet from the art table. And when you finally DO get into the art studio and open the sketchbook, it feels like you’re doing nothing for an hour. But eventually something happens, and it’s the only way to get there in my experience.
I also find it helpful to get external inspiration. I had a lovely day at the De Young Museum last Thursday. I went to see the Nureyev exhibit, and the Girl With the Pearl Earring happened to be there too. The etchings were amazing. I also went to see Les Miserables (for the second time) during the Superbowl. What a great work of art that is (even though I had to shush some people for blabbing through the whole thing.)
Did you know that today was International Sketch Crawl Day? I didn't, but coincidentally, I was out sketching in Albany with the Bay Area Urban Sketchers. I was inspired by the Meetup group that I drew with in Paris, so I decided to be more open and proactive about finding more drawing groups here at home. So I sketched in Flowerland on Solano Avenue for three hours day with a bunch of other people. The East Bay Express has a great article about the Urban Sketchers.
It’s been challenging to draw here. It’s winter, so it’s cold outside, and the apartment I’m staying in is an 1860s Haussmann building, including the lighting, so it’s kind of dim in here. On Thursday, I gathered all of my strength to stand in line for one hour to get into the D’Orsay. By the time I got in, I was starving and dehydrated, and then I had to stand in line for another half hour to get into the café just to get a sandwich and some water. It was crowded, but worth it, though I long for the days when I was able to come here and have these museums almost all to myself. Things got better. Yesterday (Friday), I went to the Victor Hugo Museum, which was fortuitous, because it fit perfectly with the Intuitive Drawing Workshop that I went to in the evening. Apparently Victor Hugo and his cohorts were into Ouija boards and channeling spirits through their art. The Intuitive Drawing people are getting together to draw in the Louvre tomorrow (Sunday. Not just any Sunday—Free Sunday) to draw. I expressed hesitation about going to the Louvre as I was still suffering from PTSD from the D’Orsay, but I used L’Orangerie as a test case today, and as it went well, I will go to the Louvre tomorrow. I got into L’Orangerie easily, and it was relatively peaceful in there. L’Orangerie houses, among other things, some very large mural like Monet water lilies, and the museum people like to keep it as a meditative space, so when people talk too loudly, the guards Shhh them. It’s great. France is changing, but the guards can still Shhh people in a frigging museum. I love it. That could never happen in the USA. The Intuitive Drawing people had encouraged me to sketch in spite of all of my difficulties, so I did a few sketches in the Tuileries in spite of extremely chilly conditions. (This was right before L’Orangerie.) While meditating on the Water Lilies, I got into a conversation with a French couple in L’Orangerie about the sketchbook. I wasn’t even sketching. I was just writing something and the sketchbook was open, so the French couple started talking to me. In French. And I did OK. If you want to meet people, here, I recommend breaking out a sketchbook. Unfortunately, I only sketch when I feel like sketching, so I can’t really use it as a social networking tool, but as a nice side effect, it works every time.
This is my first blog ever. I think that I'll write about my history as a cartoonist. Feel free to join in the conversation about your creative process.