Apr 22, 2013

WEBSITE BLOCKED per United States Government

For more information on the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, click HERE.

To find out how dangerous this bill is to YOUR freedoms (and no, I'm not exaggerating or using hyperbole) click HERE.

DOCUMERICA Project by the Environmental Protection Agency

Two years after President Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency, the newly created agency sent out 100 photographers to document the state of the environment in the country, and captured images of pollution, neglect and decay, not to mention images of life in the 1970s. These photos represent a fascinating time capsule of life at the beginning of a decade when the environmental movement was in its infancy.

The U.S. National Archives digitized more than 15,000 photographs from the series, all of which are available on the Flickr photo sharing website. I could spend hours looking at these old photos. Below are some of the more striking pictures which stirred people to action to save the environment.

These are pictures that launched an environmental movement, a movement which seems to have foundered, if this depressing poll is indication. Come on, people - this is the only planet we have.

The Crying Indian Commercial

The 1970s' environmental movement also led to the creation of the iconic "crying Indian" commercial which sought to raise awareness of the toll pollution was taking on our environment. The American Indian in the commercial was Iron Eyes Cody, who claimed Cherokee-Cree ancestry, and was a huge supporter of Indian rights, and was in more than two hundred movies (learn more about him HERE). This commercial defined the early environmental movement in the 1970s. 

Escape The Rut: Embrace Your Creative Side For Better Living

Falling into a rut means you are following tried-and-true but well worn steps instead of taking a chance or exploring new areas. What is the primary reason we do this?

Fear. Most people make their decisions based on some level of fear. “If I try that, I might fail.”, or “If I do this, others will think poorly of me.” or the big one: “If I take a chance, I might end up living in a van down by the river.” Fear is the biggest factor that holds people back from trying new things and fulfilling their dreams. I better not chance it; it’s just too risky.

Don’t get me wrong; we live in dire economic conditions right now. There are millions of people in this country out of work or under-employed, so there are real-world consequences to going off on a new path on a whim. The fear of losing something is the biggest hindrance to new thought processes. “I’m just trying to hold onto what I have.”

But, do not let this fear be an excuse for not stretching your mind in different directions. Take your mind off its leash from time to time and let it run free, without restrictions. In my drawing classes, the biggest challenge I see my students struggle with is their inability to let go and create spontaneously. When sketching, they hesitate, they judge themselves critically, they get frustrated when a masterpiece does not emerge right away.

This is a symptom of our society’s relentless demands for conformity and success: don’t act so weird. Watch what you say. You’re not good enough. Don’t make people feel uncomfortable. Better not say that, someone might get offended. Just keep it to yourself. You can’t do that, are you crazy?! If you can just go ahead and stay in that box, that would be grrreat, mm-kay? Thanks a bunch. 

Coupled with that is a fear of failure. Our society teaches us, constantly, that failure is shameful and to be avoided at all costs. This is why every student gets a trophy, so no one will fail. This mind-set is why innovation in business is shriveling. Newsflash: FAILURE IS PART OF LIFE. Get used to it. You will fail (and have probably failed at some point in your life in the past). Trying to avoid failure is like trying to pretend the sun won’t come up in the morning. No one gets a free pass from failure. Myself, I’ve learned more from my failures than I've ever learned from my successes. The more comfortable you are with the concept of failure, the more you’ll be able to learn from it when it happens.

Some of the greatest entrepreneurs were people who launched projects most people thought were ridiculous. When Walt Disney began building Disneyland in Anaheim it was widely derided; people called the park Walt’s Folly. Disney had setbacks and failures, but he never quit, despite what people thought. Steven Schussler, founder of the Rainforest Cafe restaurants, was so passionate about his concept he built an artificial rain forest in his house to attract investors. His house even got raided by the DEA, who thought the high energy usage meant he was growing pot. It took TWO YEARS before he attracted an investor who would give him a chance, and the rest is history. His autobiography, “It’s A Jungle In There” is an excellent read.

Here is my suggestion: take your mind off the leash and engage in some kind of creative endeavor, whether it be drawing, painting, sculpting, fixing old cars or even quilting. And when you do this, DON’T CARE. I’ll say that again: DO NOT CARE.  Get your analytic mind out of this process! It has no place here. Create without thought, without judgment, without reservation. Do not think. DO. When you do this, you will get into that special place called the ZONE, the place where you are operating on pure instinct, and your creativity is flowing almost without any conscious thought. It is in the zone where some of your best insights and ideas will emerge, because those ideas are not constrained by your fearful, logic-based restrictions. It’s a lot like meditation.

In your career or job search, this creative spirit will serve you well. You’ll come up with different angles on old problems. You’ll have a different insight than your contemporaries because you have let your mind out of its box. If you’re job searching, try something new. Do you have a skill you can profit from? Why not see if you can turn it into a business? Is there a need which is being unmet somewhere you can exploit? Find out if you can exploit it. Is there an area you've never explored because it’s too different, or “out there”? EXPLORE IT!

We’re in a new age, people. What worked yesterday will not work tomorrow. To get to someplace you've never been, you have to do something you've never done. One of the best places to start is to set aside time to unshackle your mind and let it run free. You might be surprised where it takes you.

Apr 19, 2013

Graphic Novel Review

Books are where it's at, especially books with pictures! Here are some good ones to check out. Remember, art is not created in a vacuum. Read every day! Graphic novels, books, blogs...all of these sources help your development as an artist and a person. Note: more books will be added to this post in the very near future.

This is a great anthology of the lifetime work of Charles Schultz, who, obviously, is famous for Peanuts, arguably the most popular and widely distributed comic strip in history. This book traces the history of Schultz' work, from his sketches made when he was drafted into the military, his first comic strip called L'il Folks, which would evolve into Peanuts, featuring Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy, Snoopy, Schroeder, Violet and Sherman.

The characters were very different when Schultz began drawing them, with larger heads, giving them a more babyish look, and with different personalities than the ones we are familiar with now. Lucy was originally a zombie-eyed tot who was good at sports and taken care of by Charlie Brown, and Snoopy didn't have any thoughts or the rich fantasy life he eventually discovered. 

Here's a look at what the early Peanuts strip looked liked, from the 1950s:

One hallmark of Peanuts was the lack of any adults in the strip. All the stories were told from the height of the characters, leaving the adults, even the teachers, unseen. Below is a very rare example of adults appearing in a Peanuts strip. Schultz discarded the idea of adults in the strip immediately.

Peanuts - The Art of Charles Schultz is chock-full of interesting photographs, scans of early strips and trivia. We learn who the woman was who was the inspiration for the red-haired girl, Schultz' thoughts about his creations, and how his strips have affected popular culture. It took years before Peanuts began to be popular with the American public.

Peanuts has never been a hilarious, knee-slapping kind of comic strip; the gags were always subtle and low key, and read today, they seem flat and devoid of the sharp humor that we are surrounded with today. The humor in the 50s was much less in-your-face than today's humor (contrast Peanuts with Calvin and Hobbes). I've never laughed out loud when reading Peanuts. The strips were entertaining, but devoid of hilarity.

There is no denying the immense cultural impact of Peanuts, however; its characters have been used to shill everything from cars, to snack cakes, to cereal to life insurance, a practice that Schultz did not object to, seeing the strip as a way to sell more papers. The relentless use of Peanuts characters has indeed cheapened the strip, and sapped it of its creative impact, turning the characters into marketing tools. Besides marketing, there were Peanuts merchandise galore: toys, games, licensed comic books, school supplies, stuffed animals, appliances, calendars, greeting cards, housewares, clothing, even telephones and pencil sharpeners. If there was a way to profit from Peanuts, it has been done.

Below are some examples of early Peanuts advertising:

Peanuts remains a icon of a particular era, and reading Peanuts today is an act of nostalgia, a revisiting a genre of comics from an earlier, more innocent age. Perhaps that is what gives Peanuts its enduring charm.

This is great stuff, and unbelievably  these fantastic sketches, over five thousand of them, were sitting in a shed, neglected and exposed to rodents, moisture and even rusty paperclips. 

Cartoonist and editor James Sturm discovered this amazing cache from Wortman's son, and set about rescuing and publishing these amazing sketches.

Wortman was an artist who created over nine thousand drawings for the publication  Metropolitan Movies, as well as for other magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post, Life, and The New Yorker. 

These sketches capture New York in the 1930s and 1940s with a captivating flair, style and authenticity. The little details in each drawing, such as the signs, prices and buildings, offer a glimpse of what New York was like back then. 

Worthman took many pictures from which he created these illustrations; some of them are included in the back of this book.

You could do a lot worse than to have this incredible collection on your bookshelf as an inspiration in charcoal sketching. This is some of the best I've seen.

This omnibus by Raicht, Smith and Wilson is a dark fantasy tale about the Boogeyman and the dark closet. During Word War 2, a little boy sleeps in bed, until he is awakened by the Boogeyman, who snatches him and takes him to his dark realm in the depths of the boy's closet, a land of dark dreams and nightmares.

The little boy's toys join together to do the unthinkable: enter the closet and confront the Boogeyman's forces in order to get the boy back unharmed. This is a grim tale, a nightmarish version of Toy Story in which bad things happen. The art is dark and sepia-toned, appropriate for the surreal story line. 

This one may keep you awake at night.

Apr 14, 2013

Cartooning & Drawing Demo - Morean Arts Center St. Petersburg

The Cartooning and Drawing demo I conducted at the Morean Arts Center in St. Petersburg was a big success; I had to add a second table for the people who came in for free five minute drawing lessons. If you are interested in learning more about the classes, check out this page, or e-mail me at magnumarts1@gmail.com.

Apr 12, 2013

Two Promotional Pieces

These are two pieces I created for the Cartooning & Drawing class demos that I provide at area events, to promote the Cartooning & Drawing classes I teach. The free 5-minute drawing lessons are popular; in five minutes I show people the basics of sketching, to unlock their creative impulses.

Apr 7, 2013

Florida Miata Meet in Lakeland, FL - Miatapalooza 2013

Deb owns a Mazda MX-5, otherwise known as a Miata, a car that has a rabid fan base. Owners get together for rallies to swap ideas, tips and modifications to their Miatas. Miatas are customized for racing as well, as their small, nimble platforms make them ideal for the track.

One of the largest Miata rallies in Florida took place in Lakeland, about forty minutes north of Tampa. Called Miatapalooza, it was one of the biggest Miata rallies held, with around three hundred Miatas in attendance, from Miata clubs from all over the state. 

So Deb and I went up in her Miata to check it out.

A convoy of Miatas lines up to enter the huge parking lot where the rally will be held.

The sprawling parking lot was turned into an enormous Miata car show; these two pictures show only part of the area where the rally was held.

Below: some of the Miatas that have been customized for racing

This Miata is a demo that shows what one looks like before it is prepared for racing on the track. The engine and interior components are all removed, and the first thing to be added is the roll bar.

These are what the interiors look like after they have been configured for racing

By far the most unique Miata there was this one, which has been modified with a front-end kit, resembling the old Austin Healy frog-eye Sprite sports cars made in the late fifties and sixties. 

For comparison, the top picture is of the Miata, the bottom is of an Austin Healy Sprite, often referred to as the "frogeye" Sprite because of its distinctive headlight nacelles. It was only because of expense that the headlights were not concealed, as was originally intended. The cars are very collectible today.

The kit was manufactured by a Japanese company and sold less than twenty kits before it stopped becoming available for sale in the U.S. At the time, Miatas had a reputation as a retirees' car, with an almost stodgy image. When Jim, the car's owner, began modifying his car, his friends were horrified, telling him he was ruining his Miata and that it wouldn't run right.

Nowadays, the kit would be a huge seller, I'm sure.

Jim has done a lot with the car, customizing the interior and engine, even putting in a nitrous-oxide system for short bursts of intense speed, not legal for street use.

This Miata has a brawny Ford powerplant and custom mufflers, giving it a very big sound signature.

It's license plate says I8APONY.

A couple of Miatas had chalkboard paint on them, with invitations to draw or write on the cars with chalk. Definitely a way to attract attention!