Lenny Letter, Ice Scream & Summer Wrap-up

One of the biggest highlights for me this summer was illustrating The Seductive Pleasures of Sybille Bedford for Lena Dunham & Jenni Konner’s Lenny Letter.

I especially loved the challenge of there being only one photo of Sybille Bedford’s early life that I could find, so I needed to improvise. She was often hanging out on the French Riviera alongside the likes of Adolf Huxley (Brave New World) sipping wine with many other artists & writers of her time. I got to explore her world for a little bit in gouache and it was magical.

This summer is also where my project Beautiful Monsters began to feel like something more. I had started this project with an idea but it has since been taking a life of its own. I have pages of ideas to share, each one getting more exciting and pushing my interest in animated storytelling even further.

I couldn’t get an image of a screaming ice cream cone out of my head since Illustration Friday announced their June topic was ice creamEven though I didn’t make it in time for their site, I used this visual later to express my dread over summer’s end.

Let this be a warning, says the magpie to the morning, don't let this fading summer pass you by. (Neko Case)

All things fade at some point; seasons change, summer fades, even watercolor markers fade (when accidentally left by an open window before a downpour!) My illustration of that beach wasteland is how lonely it can feel inside my gut at the thought of holing up for wintertime.

I am looking forward to shifting gears with Beautiful Monsters. All October #thebeautifulmonstersproject posts will be Halloween & horror movie themed. I am also looking into the children’s book market (a pairing so fitting it’s actually maddening that I haven’t taken the plunge before), finding an agent, and setting up shop for prints & paintings. Despite years of experience, it was only until the very end of 2016 thru 2017 when I started finding my voice as an artist, even if it’s been right there under my nose all along.

“It’s not over until we say it’s over” (photo by timx13)

Ain’t Nothing Gonna Break Our Stride

Since the beginning of time we’ve heard about the forces of good and evil. Man vs. beast, gods vs. demons, Jedi vs. Sith. It’s what makes great TV and fiction. It’s the origin story of so many religions and mythologies. It’s why we’re addicted to superheroes and Game of Thrones.

While I’m aware that good and evil will always exist, I never expected what’s happening today to get this bad. Something feels off; broken. Humans broke through some alternate dimension where Trump is president and white supremacists are called “fine people”. This isn’t an episode of Fringe, even though we use terms like “alt-right” and “alt-left” the same way Fringe had an alt-Walt and alt-Olivia. This is not an alternate universe; it’s all really happening.

I still have hope and I will keep on fighting. So many of us will, and that is where history will repeat itself. When the balance is out of whack things are forced to change. We could look at it that way; that love and people will rise up just like they have in the past.

Things will only change if we don’t give up and keep on fighting the good fight. Evil is not the media or just this one man, it resides in each of us. I know I can’t change the world, but I can definitely get to work on a micro level. I can look at myself and my own behavior. Learn from my mistakes and the mistakes of others. Treat people with compassion. Speak up against hate. Admit when I am wrong. Check my privileges. Learn from others. I am willing do the work of being uncomfortable and letting people know when they make ignorant remarks. I am willing to leave friends and family if they stay on the side of hate and oppression, and I am willing to tell them why. It’s not that hard to fight for love and equality when we do this together. Good will prevail in the end.

Ain't nothin' gonna break-a my stride. Nobody gonna slow me down. Oh no. I got to keep on moving. (Matthew Wilder)

Monster: The Wounded Heart
Antidote: sometimes you need to be uncomfortable and just feel the pain; the answers come when you lean in and listen
Special thanks: to my favorite bro duo, Tim & Mike Mucci, for helping me ideate the heart animation, 700 miles away from home

Orange You Glad I Didn’t Say Banana

I first got the idea for a bananaman after seeing this page (above right photo by Fred Mortagne) in Juxtapose Magazine, issue 193. It was a goofy idea that turned into something a little more thoughtful. I kept thinking about the layers of consciousness and what we allow ourselves to see. Book rec: Peeling Back the Layers of the Mind by Michael Austin Jacobs.

What if a banana slipped on a banana?

Friday 8/4 #beautifulmonster:
Monster: Bananaramaram
Description: somewhere between overthinking, obsessing, and anxiously pulling back layers before the center is ripe. Too focused on the past or future that you could slip right through the present. 🍌 Enjoy your banana

Friday 8/11 #beautifulmonster:
Monster: Bannoyance
Description: the frustration you feel over things out of your control, like writing this IG post on your way to a weeklong beach vaca when the forecast predicts thunderstorms…every.single.day ⚡️

Liminal Space & Lucky Sevens

I got caught in liminal space making art about liminal space. There was a space in between who I was before, who I am becoming, and a whole lotta learning in between. I’ll use my own head as a metaphor: I’ve been growing my hair out for years, and yet today it’s still just at my shoulders. I’ve told this story before, but when I was a kid I had wild curly hair, to which my mother would iron out and reset into rollers–every single night–so that my curls would be different than their natural state and look more like Shirley Temple.

It was a nightly ritual that lasted up until the fifth grade (when I finally said enough is enough!) and the rollers were painful to sleep on. It might seem minor, but embedded somewhere in there was a message that my natural state was never good enough. Throughout my teen years and beyond I rebelled by taking control of it myself, dying and straightening, still reinforcing that my naturalness was never good enough. It was only until recently that I saw through this charade in its entirety and have been letting the curls roam free. No more blow dryer, straightening iron, or fretting over my Little Orphan Annie fro at the beach. My hair has never been happier.

King Protea flower (Protea cynaroides) symbolizes change and transformation (source)

In these years of waiting for my hair to get long again, hairdressers would say that I needed to get regular cuts in order for it to grow. I dutifully listened, but in the past few years, my hair has not grown past my shoulders. It’s as though I was growing out bad decisions (just like those tiny unmanageable bangs) and truly finding myself within this process. I stopped listening to other people and listened to what my hair had to say instead. I endured the visual discomfort of growing out horrible bangs and layers that didn’t work, and now my hair is starting to look and feel healthy again. This can be said about life sometimes; when you listen to other people–or even the stories we tell ourselves–we may never step out of the transitional unknown and grow.

Art desk + #thebeautifulmonstersproject #art #illustration #strangefigurations

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So what is this liminal space? “The word liminal comes from the Latin word limen, meaning threshold–any point or place of entering or beginning. A liminal space is the time between the ‘what was’ and the ‘next.’ It is a place of transition, waiting, and not knowing. Liminal space is where all transformation takes place, if we learn to wait and let it form us.” (source) It’s a transitional time when old ideas come apart and return anew. It’s not unlike the hero’s journey (think Star Wars!) but for some of us this journey is more quiet, metaphorical, and happening within. It did for me anyway.

Trust is the antidote to the discomfort of not knowing, though the hardest time to have trust is while facing the unknown (when you need it the most). There’s a great book for times that gnaw at our fear of the unknown: Pema Chödrön’s When Things Fall Apart. Trust that the answers will come.

I’ve also been watching an enormous amount of David Lynch these past months with the return of Twin Peaks. I fell down the rabbit hole and rewatched the original series, then some of his movies, then interviews… He’s big on transcendental meditation, and while that’s a practice to explore another time, the shared sentiment I came away with is accessing an “ocean of awareness” within.

A moving painting, but with sound. That idea stuck in my head. A moving painting. (David Lynch)

There is also something Lynch said in The Art Life that I have been recently discovering in my work. This unexplainable thing that’s happening in the wee hours when I’m experimenting with my personal work, these chaotic animated drawings that I post sometimes. I’ve been referring to this new route as “moving sketches”, though Lynch refers to them as “moving paintings.” I’m pretty smitten that I was close tho.

Happy accidents #gouache #paint

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Liminal Space is a beautiful thing but it’s totally possible to stay too long (hello, skeleton!)

An update on the Beautiful Monsters Project itself: a new monster will be posted every Friday on Instagram through September 8th. The posts will be shorter, and I will stop floating around in space! That makes a total of seven (including this one), so I’m calling these next monsters my Lucky Seven. Here’s a nice glass of PJ Harvey to pair with this week’s theme:

Monster: Kevin Liminal Spacey
Descriptionthe space of ambiguity where you don’t know the answers and often rush through it to make yourself feel comfortable again. Discomfort with the unknown. The spaces in between. No affiliation to real-life actor Kevin Spacey, other than I think his movies are pretty good.