too hard, didn’t finish

Drawings have been few and far between this year. Not that it’s been a bad year, the time at the Botanic Gardens getting my hands dirty with design again, an awesome family holiday to Japan, but wondering what it was all about. Being more of a manager than a designer. Being more inspired to code than draw. There are no comics where the hero settles down to being a dad and public servant in middle age!

Hence a drawing about my self-image and its changes over time. Which then seemed pointless and self-indulgent – ‘who will ever see it?’ – or more strongly – ‘who would care?’

Ringing ears and dark ales

But then I went out for a boys night and saw some amazing heavy bands at the Crown and Anchor.* They were old dudes, my age, living the dream and smashing it. We ended up talking to some of them outside afterwards, I was confessing my lack of motivation and they were inspiring. Do it for the love of it, do it for yourself.

And I did. Got all motivated and made good progress to a point… then just stepped back to my coding project. Got really obsessed with it, staying up late and on weekends trying to get new things to work. And they did work, and the satisfaction was massive. But no drawing was done.

Intrinsic demotivation

I’ve been doing more management training at work, as well as a great questionnaire about personal strengths. Lots about how to motivate people, and much pondering on how to get it to work with my staff, or my two headstrong daughters! Turns out there’s a whole lot about challenges and learning something new.

So I started comparing coding and drawing. The first seems like a hard sell. After a day of being on a computer at work, sit at another screen at night, mostly in a bare bones code editor typing Javascript that I mostly didn’t understand. Spend weeks trying multiple things, searching forums, just to get a single thing to work. Being elated when it finally worked. Then seeing the next thing I could do to build on it. Loops.

Drawing should be a no-brainer. Something I’ve always loved and is quite meditational. Something that’s always been a strong part of my self identification. Now a thing where my skills are getting rusty, having to spend longer to produce drawings that aren’t as good as they were before. Oops.

This drawing really was the straw that broke the camels back, but also that finally made it clear. The thing I find hardest at the moment is drawing people. With a good reference pictures, and at a big enough scale I can can still get it together. I was really enjoying this when it was all about the perspective and the pen outlines of the canvases. Then it was going to be lots of detailed small drawings of people, often specific people like the family shot set in Japan… the only one that I actually finished.

Too long, didn’t read

At this point you’d be expecting some resolution, some truths, but they’re never that easy. I’m not ready to give up on drawing yet, but there may be a few more posts about writing a novel along the way!

*Thanks again for the birthday tickets cuz!

8 and 10

Passed cystoscopy number 10 yesterday. Maybe it was because I’m on a week’s holidays, but I was pretty blasé about this one. No drawing even!

On the bus to the hospital there were a group of Down Syndrome teens on an outing. It was a sunny day and they were having an infectiously fun time. But it also made me intensely grateful for the health of my two daughters. Why do we need reminders to feel it?

It was my wife who remembered it would be 8 years nearly on the dot since my first surgery. Cancer and family deaths in the past have given me bursts of motivation, seize the day, etc… but it never lasts. My life is going well and I wallow in happy complacency, feeling a moment of guilty regret after a night of bad television. Should have done some drawing. Looking at my gut in the mirror. Better do some exercise.

There’s a blank board on my desk waiting to be drawn on, a bookmarked headless CMS waiting to be downloaded, a novel synopsis waiting for the difficult second half, and a blog post waiting for a pithy ending. How lucky is that!

“resilience”

As a family we weren’t really that resilient. We all need extra time and space to ourselves to keep our equilibrium. If we do more than one thing in a day we feel frazzled. Travelling to Japan was the crucible for that.

We really surprised ourselves with some crazy adventures of endurance. The epic train, bus and icy mountain climb to spend a half hour at the snow monkeys was the high point. We all had our moments of losing it, but we pushed through and got some great rewards for it. Crepes after 9pm in Harajuku anyone?

This idea came together on that journey, rollercoasters and bullet trains and giving yourself up to the ride. It doesn’t look much like what I initially imagined, with arrows peppered everywhere and blood. It also doesn’t have much of the zen asymmetry of Japanese prints I was aiming for, but it does have a ludicrously accidental mirroring of the banner and the serpent!

Despite being a bit of a train wreck of mediums it needed no resilience to draw, coming together in a two week purple patch of late night sessions. The unexpected revelation was after a week or so of repeated scribbling, trying to get the feel of the coiling serpent in tiny thumbnails, I threw caution to the wind and just started on the big A2 board. The freedom of big drawing gestures was amazing, so I’ll have to start going big and to hell with the practicality.

I just have to learn how to take good photos instead of scanning!

“despite”

A reminder to myself from today, vowing to let other people do crap work and not stick my nose in. A play on cutting it off instead, I originally imagined it as a leaping action pose wildly slashing with a sword to narrowly slice, leaving a skull-like nose stump. As you do. Maybe Japanese flavoured with a samurai sword and Tengu mask. Or Venetian flavoured with Scaramouche mask and ruffled collar both being chopped. Both with a conveniently big nose.

But I’ve already got one half-started drawing, so maybe I can let myself do something quick and dirty too!

chauvinist apocalypse

I watched one of my all time favourite movies over the weekend, Blade Runner, set in an apocalyptic 2019 as imagined in 1982. I had dreamed of chartering a helicopter to fly over Los Angeles just to fully live the alternative real version.

There are no offworld colonies, no flying cars, but we do have sex robots. You don’t need a feminist reading to be disturbed by the movie, a reconstructed male view will do just as well.

I always loved Rachael. She was beautiful and doomed, and I wanted to be gritty and tough and rescue her. Now she just seems like a blank for the male characters, or a teenage boy, to project their fantasies on.

Tyrell makes her as an experiment, loading her up with girl memories to make her chaste and uptight, obediently tottering on heels where she’s told to go. Deckard isn’t interested until that identity and her elaborate hair unravel, then he overwrites with his own operating instructions: “say you want me” – “I want you.” Afterwards he leaves her passive in his bed while he works through the rest of the plot, returning at the end of the movie to issue a second set: “do you trust me?” – “I trust you.”

That’s not even getting into details of the love scene where Deckard kicks the door shut so she can’t leave and throws her against the wall. Or that Sean Young’s tears in the scene were real because Harrison Ford actually threw her against the wall. Or the reports of repeated bullying she was subjected to by Ridley Scott.

I often remark on the great and tough female characters of sci fi, Ellen Ripley and Sarah Connor especially. Rachael, sadly, is not one of them.

“germination”

Just for a change, I was delayed completing a positive picture by going on an awesome overseas holiday!

The year kicked off with a bang, splitting my job to spend two days a week at the Botanic Gardens, and on the countdown to that holiday to Japan. Walking through the gates into lush green those first few mornings I knew I needed a botanical metaphor, that there was growth and optimism in flower.

The return of the budding avatar was a given, but it was the rebirth from the ashes that made it real. There’s been some fire on paper in the metaphors, and in life over the last year or so, bottoming out my stress levels and sleep deprivation.

Been too long since the cycle kicked over, let the new baktun begin!

darker grass

I was ten when ET came out. Unequivocally I thought Elliott should have gone with the aliens, had no hesitation about the idea of leaving family and world behind. Two years later, I was appalled Tom Hanks didn’t swim away with Darryl Hannah at the end of Splash. Into the unknown with a girl!

Maybe all of my generation’s teenagers felt alone and different, but I remember watching the couples easily making and breaking and remaking like interchangeable pieces of a simple jigsaw. And feeling like a piece from a different type of puzzle altogether.

I spent too much time with my own thoughts, and smoking weed probably didn’t help that, but eventually found my own way. There was a long planned but never started picture idea in my early twenties. A wild lone wolf me following a harsh and isolated path through the night, pausing to look in the window of a bright and warm house, pausing to look at a mirror self inside. A self connected to a family, peering out at the darker path.

Looking back at some of the things that darker self did, taking social risks I couldn’t imagine now. Loving going to parties where I didn’t know anyone so I could be free of worrying what people thought. Moving to another city not knowing a single person. That me was fearless, but often very lonely.

Two decades later I’m inside that warm house, a piece in my own puzzle connected with family and purpose, wondering where the hell that guy outside would have finished up. Watching movies with themes of alienation, and hoping they’ll have a happy ending.

“muse x”

There’s no irony in a picture about neglecting my drawing to work on some coding projects, being delayed by working on some coding projects…

But that is launched and this picture finished. I did debate a little about it being super self-referential, and even more about whether I could still use a nude woman to symbolise creativity, but if you can’t gratify yourself on an anonymous blog there’s no hope!

The colours are from the web project, and the central idea is a reversal of this one about giving up on code. The candle comes from a long time concept of altars to things I thought I wanted, and the one below in particular after coming back from my first big overseas jaunt, lighting candles to make choices about the future. From way back in 1996, maybe not safe for work!

I hated it as a drawing at different points, the anatomy of the figure itself, some terrible shading before it got slathered with blue ink, and in the end the thing I like most is the bottle… but it was good to try some new things out, mainly bright colour!

Drawing had better watch out, I love code.

Original rough with extra wheat!

“new juggler”

I was looking to draw something a bit lighter in tone, and had been wanting to do an update of a very old drawing for a while…

One of the role playing games I played back in the day was an Australian superheroic setting – Super Squadron! In a great campaign run by Mike (hi!) I played an acrobatic character “The Juggler” who had a frog sidekick. There was a luck rule that if you rolled triple 6 you would hit no matter what. During a fight we were losing, the frog attacked, rolled the triple and knocked out the bad guy!

I’m a bit unconvinced by this drawing. Been sinking my creative juices and spare time into a coding project, and getting a bit existential about drawing… “why am I doing it?” The deep / unhappy pictures answer their own question, but the fun ones feel a bit pointless. Doing some life drawing again and getting the anatomy less wonky might help too!

The raw drawing

The original, from back in 2001!

“untitled #43”

For what was supposed to be a quick sketch before bed to remember an idea, it turned out surprisingly well! An accidental cover page for the next journal, but couldn’t think of a title that wasn’t trite.

Musing on the feeling that stress / reflux / sleep deprivation was degrading my mental competence. A slightly less super-heroic pose would have been good…