It started with a couple of Bible verses (listed here in KJV):
Isaiah 6 : The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.
and 65 : The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord.
The idea that nothing would hurt or destroy on God’s holy mountain was such a peaceful, appealing idea. It still is. I love animals, and apparently the whole predator and prey system will be changed on his mountain. As a member of a species that seems to be hurtful even to its own, I find it such a hopeful promise that someday, that even the animals won’t be like that. And if the animals won’t be, than maybe we won’t either.
No more bashing politicians. No more mocking over insignificant differences. No more fighting and killing over money, land, or race.
Right now, we must leave the wild animals wild or they will be killed, perhaps for poor reasons like sport, by accident like being in the wrong place and hit by a car or understandable reasons like food.
But some day, maybe we too, can cuddle up with that previously wild animal. The bears really will be teddy bears. The wolfs will be as friendly as dogs. A lion may be a bigger wilder but still gentle cat. And we can be friends, not enemies or competition for resources.
That’s my idea of heaven. Where lost loved ones are reunited and new friends of all species are made, and previous ills are just a nightmare that fades away in daylight.
Most American childhoods are full of toys. Sometimes the toy comes first, sometimes the TV show does. But either way it soon becomes a collectible – whether the kind you play with or the kind that sits on a shelf, reminding you of your favorite characters. A true fan has more in mind than an eventual sale – for one can never know what’ll be worth money later on.
But what about when your favorite just doesn’t strike the fancy of the toy makers? What about when the toy maker’s version of the character just doesn’t match yours?
Making the Toy YOU Want
That’s where the customizers come in. These innovative fans go further. They decide they’ll make their favorite character look the way they want it to look. It may just be a new paint job, like a Breyer horse going from a boring black horse to a splashy pinto. Or they may go a step further and mash it up, such as taking My Little Pony and decorating it like Yoda or Doctor Who.
How do they do it? Well, I can’t speak from much personal experience: I have done a few Breyer repaints but that’s it. But I can tell you it takes reference material, a vivid imagination and usually the raw figure, maybe more than one if you are going to mix or match parts. This is a time honored tradition, in fact, the original Star Wars….what became a New Hope….owes much of the early starship models to ‘kit bashing’. In other words, they took bits from different model car and airplane kits and mixed them in ways the designers did not intend and certainly didn’t put in the instruction manual!
Of course, some companies have caught wind of this and decided to reward the creativity. Breyer puts out a ‘bare’ paint your own horse kit. Hasbro’s Mighty Muggs: which had Superheroes as well as Star Wars, had a ‘blank’ paint your own version too. And of course, so does My Little Pony. Barbie has a ‘style your own’ on the web site (although that’s not as hands on, obviously.)
Not surprisingly these ‘bare’ kits aren’t enough for some though. They might be fine starters, but (expect for Mighty Muggs, which are all alike) they usually offer only one model. And you certainly can’t add the furry look of the wookie, the horn of that unicorn or various other features without a bit of tweaking. Surprisingly, some of these use sculpey, judging from my Deviant Art research. This gave me pause. How do you add the Sculpey, which has to be oven baked, to a My Little Pony or other plastic doll, which would melt or burn in an oven? Or do you bake the parts separate (more likely.) Presumably the smaller the toy, the harder it is to ‘customize’. Also not surprisingly, these customs have a following of their own.
Can You Do Make Your Own Custom Toy Or Can You Buy One?
Those who can’t make, buy. And they pay a good deal too. Are they worth it? Probably. Someone thinks so. It took the cost of materials, plus whatever someone felt their time and creativity were worth. I would guess most of these ‘special’ toys, are not going to young kids. They are going to the grown up kind: whether they are over eighteen or just young collectors.
Of course, there is always that ‘iffy’ realm between selling fan art and a violating copyright. Okay. Where does the line come in between “My Little Pony”, “Star Wars” or “Doctor Who” and the creativity of the person who made it come in? For most, fan art stays fan art if it’s ‘at most’ one piece. Forget merchandising. It’s a bit risky even selling one, but it largely depends on the owner of the copyright. I like the think many of these copyright holders recognize their own danger in overzealousness at pursuing a single one of a kind fan custom figure. One doesn’t want to alienate their own fans. That might stop hem from buying. And odds are, that custom figure has base parts from regular figures which…ahem…they still want to sell. So they must balance this fine line with care.
And they don’t stop with toys. They continue into the dioramas and playsets to put the toys into show off.
And why do we do it? Why do apparent adults and kids of an age when hanging out with friends are normally taking up the time suddenly getting involved with this stuff?
I think it’s that emotional, sentimental memory of their fandom. Combined with the need of the arts and craftsman to create, it expresses itself through collecting and customizing. It recaptures a little of childhood’s joyous wonder and refuses to let it go forever. Some people keep their fandom in the closet (perhaps literally). Others are more open. But when you walk down the street, taking with friends, even hearing some bully put another down, let the thought come. The most grown up grown up might, in fact…be hiding a pony in the closet. Or that cool custom hotrod, hand painted and paid a fortune for. Don’t let them fool you. They are everywhere!
Compromise in art can be maddening. Art can be many things, many mediums. It can be the fine art hanging on the wall of the museum, or even what’s on the front of a cereal box. It can be a play or a movie or a TV show. But all of these things are compromised by the very basic need of funds to create.
Even in the olden days, the famous artists like Da Vinci and Michaelangelo needed patrons. That meant the patron could influence and command what art they were able to concentrate on. Wars stole supplies that would have been used for art and magnificent potential pieces like Da Vinci’s horse waited long after his death to come to life.
Changing demands mean right now photographic manipulation has largely replaced illustration on movie posters and book covers. And once again the artist must choose between money for supplies or changing what they would do. Already one had to fit their creations onto certain products, now they had to alter technique.
Compromise in Storytelling – TV and Movies.
As for TV – oh dear. Television in and of itself has changed. HD is obvious and recent. But what’s more, so has the need for commercials. Those in charge add little pop ups to the bottom or the side, a rather shocking distraction from the main action. Apparently whoever invented them for web browsing decided to take them somewhere without a pop up blocker. Sometimes clever product placements appear in the show – like White Collar’s Ford Taurus and Apple ads or even the fact that HP computers are all thru the FBI office. Some aren’t so clever. But ultimately, commercial time is extended. And it chops into the show, cutting off bits and pieces.
As for movies on TV, that’ s even more of a compromise, because sometimes they just aren’t designed with commercials in mind. They were meant for the big screen of a theater. The end result of adding commercials sometimes seems like they took the old fashioned film reel, put it on the wall like a dart board and threw the darts at it. Then they spliced in commercials where ever they pleased and chopped out however much they needed too.
Changing the Message of the Story
The problem with these compromises is that sometimes it changes the entire message of the art. Take Disney’s Miracle of the White Stallions. As a child, I never understood why it was called ‘Flight of the White Stallions’ on TV but listed as ‘Miracle of the White Stallions’ elsewhere. Then I got the DVD. The message was immediately obvious. For on TV the flight of the lippizans and the Spanish Riding School from Vienna was just that. A run to where they were found by General Patton and offered protection. But the ‘Miracle’ part had been left on the cutting room floor to make room for commercials. The miracle was the many people who braved the Nazi’s wrath to help smuggle them out in spite of orders to keep them there. I had a similar shock with one of my favorite incarnations of a Christmas Carol: called “Scrooge” and starring Albert Finney and Alec Guinness. It was a musical. The TV version chopped off a whole section where he wakes up in hell. I had no clue it existed until I bought the DVD.
Sometimes these actions seem downright sacrilegious. I loved ‘A Night Before Christmas’ by Rankin Bass (who also animated Rudolph, the Red Nose Reindeer and the Hobbit) as a child. But when I came back as an adult I was horrified to find that the whole thing was chopped to bits. The whole message of hope and faith was whittled to nearly nothing by commercials. One whole song was wiped out completely. As for Rudolph, I no longer know which is more accurate: the one I saw as a child or the one with the music changed but obviously part of the original show. I prefer either to the whittled down version. I find it rather amusing as well. The rather sexist message of the reindeer refusing his mate’s desire to help search for her son, for instance. “This is man’s work.” Hah. Apparently he failed to realize that disqualified him too, he was a reindeer, not a man!
Who makes these decisions to alter someone else’s story? At least with something like Star Wars and it’s infamous ‘Han shot first’ debate, the change, however controversial, was made by the creator. But who decides it’s okay to shred a children’s classic? Or remove a TV show’s funniest moments to cram in one more commercial? It doesn’t seem to involve planning to work around the original story line or message and leaving it intact. It apparently does not take into account the work of the artists involved, actors, directors or creators. Nor does it take into account the fans. And if it doesn’t take into account these, than surely it does a disservice. For by altering the story, they are diminishing the chance to make new fans. New fans, who would buy those DVDs, or collectibles or in turn support shows like it in the future.
I don’t claim to have a solution. It takes creativity, perhaps, to even work with the commercials, to interweave them into the program without breaking it’s momentum or damaging the story. Perhaps it takes training though if anyone is trained for this (beyond the ‘we need more money’ end) I don’t know.
But if they aren’t, maybe they should be. For television, movies and streaming media are our modern storytellers. They help us know the monsters can be defeated and challenges overcome. They let us escape our own problems to find a new point of view and things to get excited or laugh about. But only if the overcoming and escaping doesn’t end up on the cutting room floor and replaced with another ad for kitchen cleaner. Speaking for myself: I don’t find it inspiring to see one more commercial to ‘buy more.’ I already know how to do that. I really think we all do.
There is something about dragons that just captures the imagination.
Their powerful and have amazing abilities. Their role in our imaginations has changed over the centuries, informed by science, legend, religion and culture. They may be mere animals, or intelligent. They are a myth or a metaphor and maybe more. They can be fun to draw, but also a challenge. You won’t often find a photo of a ‘live’ dragon to pose for you. But if you know their history, you’ll be able to piece together enough of an image to create your own.
Dragons in Myth, Legend and Religion:
Spiritually, European dragons were thought of us ‘evil’. This is due to the influence of Christianity and the infamous claim that ‘Satan is a dragon’ in the book of Revelation (Revelation 12). However this is a bit of a stretch: the same devil is compared to both a snake and a roaring lion. Since Jesus is also compared to a Lion, we can’t say all lions are evil. And while many of us don’t like snakes, others do. They are, for better or worse, animals. A mouse might think a snake evil but most of us don’t. In artwork of the Renaissance Period they are often shown as a snakelike creatures with wings. Whether these are meant to represent a real extinct creature, or were a metaphor for sin, is known only to the creators. (ie look up when internet comes back). In any case these were characterized by not only a very lizard like look, batlike wings and an ability to breath fire.
Eastern dragons on the other hand were considered good luck. It’s a symbol of water and the heavens as well as fertility.
Physicality of dragons:
Given the general description of dragons, it’s possible they were informed by a combination of the Bible translations and remains of dinosaurs. Unless of course there is a real dragon that is not only extinct and the remains totally destroyed or buried deep in unexplored ocean depths.
It’s unknown what Eastern dragons are inspired by, but dinosaur bones are also found in China. But they share similarities to creatures in art by the aztecs and inuits.
Komodo dragons are real lizards, and in some tongues the word dragon traces back to ‘serpent.’
In recent years dragons have become popular in the realm of fantasy. In some ways, they’ve always been a hot topic. But now, advances in computer science allow for the creation in digital dragons. They swoop through movies in pursuit of Harry Potter and chase knights with swords. Perhaps it’s a slow recognition in our own flaws that has us re-evaluating dragon lore. Some dragon movies have come out which show dragons as more misunderstood than monstrous. Pete’s dragon is an old Disney movie featuring a friendly animated dragon and a real boy. But at the time most dragons were villains like The Hobbit's Smaug. Now stories like ‘Dragonheart’ reveal a different tale: a dragon who helped create the code of chivalry. In the Dragonriders of Pern series, dragons are a combination of human engineering and a natural species which help combat a deadly threat from a colony planet's skies.
As for the dragons of Christianity, some authors have finally recognized the gap in fantasy that Christian books had after CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien. They have created new fantasies, and unlike the old ‘villain’ dragons, new ‘hero dragons are born. Stories like Donita K. Paul’s Dragonspell series where our heroes live in a world of dragons and magic where ‘Wulder’ and his ‘Paladin’ represent the creator and all follow his laws. Their are evil dragons here too, but they have their good counterpart. Also Bryan Davis ‘Dragons in our Midst follows the tale of a boy and girl who are the children of dragons turned into humans. The dragons were pursued by slayers, who had already slain all the wicked dragons and were indiscriminately turning to the ‘good’ dragons, not caring that they served God. Prophecy says these children will save the dragons and restore the Arthurian throne.
When drawing dragons, it’s helpful to keep this dragon history in mind.
Is your dragon good or evil or neutral? Intelligent as a human or purely an animal? Is he a dragon from an established fantasy or are you inventing one all your own? Given that dragons are usually lizards, pictures of lizards can be useful in determining types of scales. Bats can supply the wings. Claws are important too. Natural earth colors would make up a realistic dragon. Remember that it would take huge wings to support this critter!
You can of course be totally exotic. You might change bat wings for feathers, go for wilder painted colors and or markings. It can have a more mammal like paws and face. Perhaps your dragon is meant to have a rider like the ones in Dragonspell, Eragon or Dragonriders of Pern. It’s your dragon. You decide! How you draw your dragon will bring it to life and influence it’s personality.
Don’t forget that where your dragon lives can help you too. Grab some pictures off the internet to reference if you want to create your own ‘cave’ backgrounds, look up sky and mountain photos for how tips and tricks on coloring your backdrop. It can be harder than it looks. Make sure your dragon stands out, at least in those features you want to be prominent.
Finally: keep in mind how much of your dragon will be in your picture. A dragon is usually big and long. So if your limited to small paper you’ll either need to shrink down your dragon and lose details or focus on one area, such as the head, and crop out others. Of course, if you can afford big paper and have the place to work you can go all out!
Here are a couple of cool references I've used for dragons:
Dragonart: How to Draw Fantastic Dragons and Fantasy Creatures – J. “NeonDragon” Peffer
DVD- Dragons: A Fantasy Made Real – Discovery Channel Volume 3
Imaginative Realism– James Gurney
The Dragon Chronicles (Fiction)
Dragonspell series – (Fiction – Series) Donita K. Paul
Dragons in our Midst – (Fiction – Series) Bryan Davis
Dragonriders of Pern (Fiction- series) – Ann McCaffrey
For beginners, here is a decent video tutorial on dragons:
For some peculiar reason, many an adult turns up their nose as if a cartoon is unworthy for adults. I’ve never really understood why. A cartoon is just a story, told with artwork in sequence. It’s not guaranteed even to be rated for kids, some are actually rated mature. Even those with a kid friendly rating are not free of true storytelling excitement. Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves had a wicked queen trying to kill the beautiful girl. Those stories are very tame compared to their original counterparts. The original fairy tales are a good deal more frightening. But the timeless tale of good versus evil still is clearly represented.
Adults create these stories. They usually write the stories, do the artwork, and ‘act’ the voices. True, if the cartoon is for kids, they have to get inside a child’s viewpoint. But look at it from an adult one and there are things about the stories one rarely notices when one enjoys it as a child. They have meanings: for good or bad, even if they are unintentional.
I always identified more with Road Runner and Tweety as a kid when watching Looney Tunes: but they weren’t always nice. While I didn’t want the Wile E Coyote or Sylvester to win, now I see that they were dreamers chasing the impossible dream. One might – from a pessimists point of view – say they suffered greatly for their ambitions. They were dropped off cliffs and smacked with frying pans on a regular basis. Well, really can you blame them for just being what they are? They were predators and hungry. And would you really want your kid to drop his adversary off a cliff? Or even develop Bugs Bunny’s sarcasm? I suppose he might encourage carrot eating. I’m not trying to bash Looney Tunes. They were great fun. But don’t tell me these were really written with kids in mind!
On a more modern basis, I’ve watched Ben Ten grow up. Ben found an awesome device called the omnitrix, which turns him into a variety of aliens. These enable him to battle evil alien invaders, under guidance of his Grandpa ( a ‘plumber’ a code name for a secret group that defends earth against aliens) Aside from being impressed with how many imaginative aliens they invent, they also show Ben regularly learning (often the hard way) about cooperation, appreciation of family, and thinking ahead.
Transformers have been recreated a few times. The impressive computer animation goes along with the timeless tale of friendship and loyalty between very different beings. My Little Ponies also have such tales for a younger set – but even adults have refused to give up their hopeful message.
As for Star Wars the Clone Wars, the tales are anything but dumbed down for kids. The original Star Wars tale dealt with Anakin’s fall – becoming Vader and his redemption by his son. Now we see him as the hero he was meant to be. But we also witness the trauma of warfare. It’s a confusing era in the Star Wars galaxy. His apprentice wrestles with the responsibility of losing men in battle. Even the villain Ventress searches for a place to belong. But the timeless values of loyalty, honesty and friendship are there. But only for kids? There are episodes that might give some nightmares. The answers aren’t always so clear. Tell a lie to save lives? Sacrifice a few to save many? These are not stories where what the right answer is comes easily. And since we know it ends where Revenge of the Sith begins we already know, to our dismay, that not all of our favorites survive the conflict.
As for style, there is something for everyone. We’ve come a long way from the hand drawn art of Snow White and early Mickey Mouse. Now we have computers to allow smoother animation and programs to make them appear almost three dimensional. Where does ‘animation’ begin and live action end in stories where an alien being is created entirely on computer but yet still interacts with humans?
Cartoons for kids? I’d rather have those then much of what is passed off as adult programming. I want a story, I want characters that make me want to root for them and scrambling to tune in when they are in trouble. I want stories with heroes. I love the animation: it makes it complete. I want the cake, the icing and even the ice cream. And why not? If I have to go to a kids channel to get it, fine. Their stories are still often resonating with the messages of myth and legend, of heroism. Kids aren’t perfect – not pure innocence, for they can be greedy and bullies and violent too. But they are still learning and growing. And while the stories often come attached to toy promotions, at least those toys promote the same values. (Except perhaps, for encouraging greed.)
So down with this absurd notion that cartoons are for kids. Cartoons are for everyone. If you can’t find one you like, I’d bet you haven’t looked too far.
These are not set in stone, they change with the times, place and religion.
Pride is often shown as violet. Maybe it’s because it’s also related to purple which is a royal and regal color or something and when we are proud we think we are the center of the universe, king or queen of all. And we don’t like to concede we aren’t or that we need help. Everyone does, at one time or another. Purple was harder to find for pigment making so it makes sense it was used more rarely.
Pride doesn’t want us to admit we need help or accept it, even though everyone needs help at one time or another. What’s more it encourages us to assume those who do have done something wrong, or are lazy or deserve their problems. This isn’t necessarily true. People don’t choose disabilities or mental illness that may sideline them from working. It’s a ridiculous point of view. Most of us will have money troubles and even so, in the USA even the poorer among us are richer than in other countries. But we all need help. No one truly survives on their own.
It’s also the sin associated with horses. I guess that’s why Jesus rode a donkey instead of a horse into Jerusalem according to the Bible. He wanted to appear humble. Horses are magnificent animals although they can also be timid, shy and have their own families and pecking order. But as a species, yes they do look proud. Just watch a stallion prancing freely around, mane and tail held high and yes, proud and regal are the words.
Color and Creatures of Virtue
Humility is often brown. Earth is brown too. Perhaps it symbolizes a willingness to work with your hands. Sometimes red is used too. This surprises me a bit, since I think of red as blood and wrath and pain. (Anyone else find too much gives them a headache?) But apparently the blood is that of the martyrs and maybe the wrath is for those who hurt them. The humble are, I imagine, those who put themselves into other people’s shoes. They realize that they too, might easily be the ones who need help. Yesterday it might have been them, or tomorrow. So they give, sometimes quietly. Christmas 2011 saw people paying off other people’s layaway toys so children could have a Christmas. Others contribute to funds to help those having trouble with bills. Okay, only some donkeys are brown. I don’t know what other creature would be associated with humility. Long eared and gentle enough to carry a pregnant mother a long way. Perhaps a lamb or sheep would be humble.
But there is another virtue here:
It’s hard to pin a color on courage. Some say orange or red. I guess that makes sense, it takes some energy to be brave and those are energetic colors. It takes courage to say yes, I need help. But it’s important because rarely do our actions or inactions hurt only us. If one can’t find courage to say ‘yes, I need help’ for oneself, what about ‘yes, I need help because my family will suffer if I don’t at least ask? It takes courage to offer help to, because people who are proud may be offended.
You also need courage to offer help. When you give help, it’s either a loan or a gift. Offer a gift of help to a stranger, homeless perhaps, and you have to wonder if they will spend it on food, lodging or a bottle of alcohol or drugs. You can’t know. But you’ll know – and your reason for giving it is at least as important as who receives it and how they use it.
I don’t know that I’d associate any species of animal as courageous. It’s too individual a thing. Any individual of many a species can be courageous if it faces a fear for any reason. But in spite of the association with pride, horses are a decent example. The term War Horse is out there due to the movie. A horse that has confidence in it’s rider charges into situations in spite of it’s fears. Whereas the ‘average’ horse may run in fear at the sight of an oddly shaped pile of hay!
There are those people out there who live without TV. Who thinks it’s a waste of time and money. They’d rather be active or socializing. Well, if they can live without it, I suppose that’s good for them. But for some of us who are not blessed with the gift of socializing or those without the health for exercise or the attention span of reading, or the price for multiple video games and their systems, TV is a great blessing.
But in our stressful world, some of us do need escape at times. Times to unwind and look at problems that aren’t real, aren’t are own – or maybe they are, but we have a chance to see them from another point of view, an outsiders point of view. A good TV show inspires one to care about the characters and want to know what happens to them. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the ‘real’ world of cops and robbers in New York city, a reality show (where reality itself is rather fictionalized for the camera) or a fantasy world of dinosaurs like Terra Nova and fairy tales like Happily Ever After or spaceships like Firefly.
And sometimes the TV is our means and reason for socialization. Like a book club, a good TV show can be a conversation starter and an ongoing topic. For those of us who weren’t born with an easy starter kit for conversations it’s absolutely priceless.
What’s more, it can inspire us – or destroy us, depending on one’s choice. We can take comfort from the fact that our real life family (hopefully) isn’t as bad as the one on the sit com. We can laugh at odd moments. Or we can pause and consider what and why do we care so much about the fictional character, invest so much in them when we can’t do that with our own family. It’s like an unrequited love. We give it and ask for little in return except they show up the same time next week.
Then again, maybe that’s more than our family does. Show up? Do families do that? Well some do. Others just leave members adrift, as if family was just a loose title and not a bond at all. It’s not uncommon these days for every member of the family to be in their own little room watching a different show on TV or computer. But that’s just a difference in taste. There is little reason to think without the TV the family would be more compatible.
The TV can be educational too and not always for obvious reasons.
My personal favorites: White Collar and the USA channel in general. Scary to think what one can learn from a con man and an FBI agent. How to fleece (or avoid being fleeced, one hopes) But also very inspiring in the art history department. I was so inspired I drew these guys for fun and came up with these greeting card ideas. It’s tricky to put a teddy bear in a Neal Caffrey style hat!
And on another end of the spectrum: Star Wars the Clone Wars. Okay, I’m biased. I’ve loved Star Wars most of my life, yes even the prequels. The whole redemption thing has me hooked. But the sheer scope of the imagination takes my breath away too. I bounce with joy when I see stuff from the comic books suddenly come to life on the TV screen and all the different styles that characters can be drawn as. I’ve been amazed at the ways they’ve been able to interweave new stories into the already established ones from the comics, especially given the time line difference. (In the comic Anakin is an apprentice for much longer. In the series, he is almost immediately knighted.) I’ve learned so much from them. And it applies to real life too, inspiring creative problem solving.
And what about the nature programs? I don’t see them much these days. But Cloud, Wild Stallion of the Rockies on PBS Nature has alerted many in the world to the plight of the Wild Mustang and the behavior of the Bureau of Land Management. (No predators? What’s that giant paw print from? And what killed that foal?)
It’s just a shame that greed has such control over television. There may have been a time when a few channels was enough. But I for one, am tired of free network channels dropping the shows I like and putting up junk in return. Or they stick the stuff I like on at the worst hours, like right after sports and then expect it to survive when no-one knows when it will come on. Cable has it’s uses, especially if you live where you can’t get anything else. But the greed thing is full blown there too: They – and I don’t know who they really are – stockholders? management? – try and bleed people dry for a couple of hundred channels. Personally I use less than ten. I don’t need a hundred. But I do need to want to be able to select the few I do watch. Satellite has the same issues. Internet TV needs the internet and a computer meeting the requirements.
So what do we do? We who have little income are going up against the giants as if we were either A: a sheep to be sheered and left shivering or B. Goliath. At least with the latter we have faith, although some stones for the slingshot come in handy. Goliath is more inclined to listen when you warn him their is another giant in the area more reasonable! That’s a big stone. Patience and stubborn determination are two more. Somehow one needs to remind the Goliaths that little people matter and that without their customers they’d be out of business. If they treat us like they would want to be treated then all is well. If they treat us like we are the dinner then they need a reality check. They can’t exist without us either.
Right now I’m looking for a way to pay for both internet and cable in an area with comparatively few ‘other’ giants to compete with the local ones. Ouch. Anyone out there know where I can get a few stones?
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by life. So many issues, who has time to research them all? It’s so easy to just ‘believe’ what we want to believe or what we are told by the government, corporation, boss, coworker, friends or family.
But sometimes the little issues we ignore are the small stones preceding an avalanche. And sometimes the politicians and big corporations are using some issues to direct us from others, so that we don’t consider the danger: if they will lie and sell out in small areas, who is to say they aren’t selling out in others.
Sometimes you just have to speak out. Some of us use our voice. Some use bumper stickers, or hats or t-shirts. Some even use graffiti. Our art is our voice and when we ignore the signs it’s the first thing that has funding cut. Teach the kids math they think not art, as if creative problem solving and expression isn’t just as important in life.
We’d rather go for pop culture thought. So try this one: Take a look at the history of the Star Wars galaxy. A great Republic is deceived by one man from within and destroyed. That’s not just fiction. It’s the history of our world too. It’s a case of misdirection. We get busy looking at the ‘big’ issues that the ‘big’ news covers and we miss that issue over on the side that is evidence of the corruption within.
Assumption is a dangerous thing. It can cost us money. It can cost us time, or our dreams and hopes. It can also cost our ethics. You can be as loyal as you like to political parties or your favorite corporations. But if you love something, you don’t ignore it’s flaws, you try and correct them. And it takes a lot of money and influence for these people to get elected. Easy for them to forget what it’s like for those of us without it or to swing the other way and assume we won’t care what they sell out.
My personal issues to go to war over (metaphorically speaking)? Well, naturally the biggest ones involve horses.
But lest you think I’m just deciding based on my love for them, here is my decision making for who to believe and side with on issues:
Facts. Prove it, don’t just tell me and expect me to believe.
Listen to both sides.
Follow the money and the motives. Who stands to gain on either side?
Is it really my business at all?
My first war is this:
The Bureau of Land Management’s management of wild mustangs, which they are charged under the 1971 act protecting free roaming horses and burros as American symbols of the west. I for one, wanted to believe they were doing just that, from the time I first read “Mustang, Wild Spirit of the West” by Marguerite Henry.
1. Congress asked them for proof of their decision making process and how many horses were left. They could not provide it.
2. They ask for huge funding to roundup and warehouse them even though they still have not proved the need.
3. They are trying to keep journalists out. Their is currently a lawsuit about it. But photo and video of horses literally being hit by helicopters has been captured. This behavior would get any other pilot in trouble.
The horses injured in the roundups are so high in number that any civilian would be arrested for animal cruelty.
4. Fact: In spite of the law, the places the horses have been allowed has been whittled down. When they are removed due to ‘too many for the land to support’ (again, they have shown no proof) cattle move in. Millions of cattle can fit but a few hundred horses can’t? I’m no math expert but something doesn’t compute.
The BLM’s conclusion: round them all up, geld the stallions and just have show herds.
Their reason: they are overgrazing and horses non native and never mind the law.
That isn’t ‘free roaming’ it’s slow extinction. No stallions = no foals = death of the wild mustang.
They can’t prove the overgrazing.
The horses originated here before dying out, so it’s a native species returning. But the cattle were never native.
They can’t prove the horses numbers. But even their claimed ‘goal’ of how many horses left takes us to a level too low for them to survive given the genetics involved. That can be proven.
It’s MY LAND and YOUR LAND, yet the Bureau of Land Management and the local states and ranchers act as if it’s all ‘THEIR’ land. It’s the land of American citizens. All of us, not just them.
And it’s MY MONEY and YOUR MONEY. So our government claims it’s out of money yet they can supply the BLM with millions of this money for roundups and holding of mustangs without any proof.
Why? What is the Bureau of Land Management and Department Interior’s Motive for this?
The head of the BLM is a rancher and the board tends to elect those with like minds.
Some have tried to get the BLM to combine with the Office of Surface Mining.
The Dept of Interior has come under fire for being too closely aligned with mining interests. The BLM is closely aligned with Ranching
What do the opponents, those who resist the roundups have to gain?
Big bills as they drive to the roundups and try and witness them. Bills for land, rooms, and transportation and meanwhile time off from other jobs.
More bills as they fund lawyers who are going against other lawyers who are paid by the deep pockets of our own government.
The final warning on the BLM though is their response to criticism. They repeat the same old line without answering any scientific challenge, ignore all protests in meetings, keep the rounded up horses on private land so no one can witness their treatment and just try protesting on their website. They flat refuse to take emails in objection. Sometimes they say it but others it just doesn’t work. Normally I’d think that was just a glitch. But not now.
The worst part they claim they keep journalists out for their own safety. Right. Journalists with horse experience.Journalists are embedded in war zones with the military and going out in hurricanes and disasters. But they can’t watch a roundup? They might spook the horses. More than the helicopter hitting them spooks them?
These design ideas hit me whenever I get…MAD! I expect they’ll keep coming. It’s an odd form of inspiration born of fury. Fury that my country is being corrupted.
I suddenly experienced an upsurge in my ‘Don’t let the Wild Horses fade away’ designs at Zazzle. Not surprised, its’ bumper stickers. Think I’m the only one whose concerned at the deception?
I’ve also sold several: “Mustangs are an American Heritage, Don’t You Dare Sell out My Share’ featuring a buckskin charging.
I’ve got one whole Cafepress shop devoted to a bay stallion battling a mountain lion. T- shirts, mugs and more. That idea would be easier than battling humans. At least the lion just wants dinner. No, humans are a worse predator. We take more than we need and show little little at the long term damage.
Don’t take what I say at face value. Research it yourself, just for a few minutes a day if you can. If you won’t or can’t buy my t-shirts or bumper stickers, at least speak out and spread the word. Sign the petitions. Let your political leaders know that it’s your money and land and you want accountability in how it’s used.
Oh, and regarding creativity: nothing against cows, but when is the last time you were inspired by one? But the sweeping beauty of the west, the galloping wild horse have inspired true history and fiction, art and beauty, called out to tourists who are shocked to arrive and find the same horses are being wiped out. The Mustang is a symbol of freedom as surely as the American flag and bald eagle. It symbolizes the hard working cowboy, the native american battling for his land, it even has a car named after it.
What is it worth to me? Will I ever get to see a wild Mustang? I don’t know. I live in the East. But they are mine too, not the local western states. And I have seen the wild Chincoteague ponies during the annual roundup. One sight of how packed that town is and the idea that horses aren’t a tourist attraction gets blown out of the water. What about the people who claim they are cockroaches? Hm. Funny. I’ve never heard of a cockroach being a cow pony, or inspiring movies or winning Dressage championships like Pedro. And a horse only foals once a year and a wild one has no guarantees of survival. As far as I can see, the only similarity to a cockroach is that a horse is a life form.
One thing I guarantee you. I don’t come up with these designs just because I’m looking up for a sale. The inspiration has to go somewhere. It may as well be into the art.
I do. I admit it. Let’s face reality, even the most avid reader can’t read all the books, or even their covers. So if you aren’t familiar with an author or series, and don’t have anyone advising you then what do you go by?
Personally, I still enjoy real paper books. I know e books are becoming more popular, but I dislike the notion of the books all vanishing if the device failed. You can’t even back them up, or if you can it doesn’t do you any good if it’s in a one brand format. I like even less the idea that they aren’t transferable to different devices i.e. a Nookbook to Kindle to laptop etc. I grant you, if you could do those things they’d be great and much more portable. But I can’t help but note, online at least, they still have a cover shown.
The most obvious lure I ever got from a book cover was the image of a murdered teddy bear. Yes, a teddy bear, stabbed in the back. I had no time to browse in the late, lamented book store, Borders, and had gone in for one thing only. I was hurrying out when I saw the book cover and froze, mid stride. What the….? I rarely looked in the mystery aisle, being more a sci fi and fantasy fan. But I had to. It turned out to be a robot, but treachery and murder were involved. I ended up with the whole series, all because I was grabbed by that cover. Obviously it helped that it was showing the cover and not just crammed into the bookshelf with only the spine showing. Sadly they’ve since switched to more photographic versions even for this series. I guarantee it wouldn’t have grabbed me the way that illustration did.
I often find myself studying cover illustrations for my favorite books and even the different versions of newer covers. You can sometimes see the changes in the companies preferences right on the front. Pure illustration gives way to photos and adds into digital combinations of the two. Impressive. How do they do that? More importantly, how does one find time to learn that? Once upon a time you just had to learn art skills. Now with digital art so common one not only has to learn the time consuming art skills, one has to keep learning all the changes between programs and the software updates and changes to computers. And money. I wrestle with how to afford the art supplies I already use, never mind the ones I want to learn. And that’s not counting keeping up on the computer which is nearly is demanding on upkeep as a car.
As an artist, I already knew I could learn a lot from book covers. I used to trace and try and copy those old horse book covers like art students did the old masters. At least I got the horses down. Now though if it isn’t a photo cover it’s much, much more.
I stare at the Star Wars books like the Jedi Apprentice series and wonder at Cliff Nielson’s designs mixing models with background art and textures. The cool art of Drew Struzan that first had me salivating at the “Heir to the Empire” heralding the return of Star Wars books and fascinated by the coloring. There are so many artists rotating through the Star Wars books I admire I can’t keep track. The Dinotopia books have me awestruck at their imagination and use of color and light. So much so that I just bought Gurney’s Color and Light, a Guide for the Realist Painter.
I still love the illustrations and wonder why in the world so many people are abandoning it for straight photography. Sure you can Photoshop them in and all but still. There is a creative imagination to illustrated covers I rarely see in the straight photo covers. The same holds true for posters: I have the Star Wars poster book and it’s astounding to see the difference. Some early posters for the original trilogy are unrecognizable as being related to the movie. On the other end the prequels are pretty homogenous. I think that’s sad. I can understand the desire for consistency but the differences in style on those early ones were fascinating.
That’s the advantage of science fiction and fantasy in regard to cover art: they can’t go all photo unless they are made into a movie, TV or a video game. You have to make them up because they aren’t real. You can look at animals and bring them together to make a dragon or an alien. But you can’t just take a photo of a real fire breathing dragon. But while a professional photographer might get some emotion from a scene, I can’t help believe it’s being over used. Part of the joy of books is imagining the characters and scenes in your own mind. When you see a ‘photo cover’ you already have a template in your head before you read a word.
This may seem contrary to my love for, say, Star Wars books. After all, I know what the characters looked like. But then again, knowing what they looked like in the movies isn’t quite the same thing. One has to imagine the whole aging process of Luke, Leia and Han, or how Anakin looked between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. One has to imagine ships and worlds one has never seen. In fact, in the newer Star Wars one is influencing the other. The name ‘Coruscant’ for the city planet came from the books. And some of the latest ‘Clone Wars’ episodes were originally from the Dark Horse comics series. Yes…they were illustrated first. And going backward the whole saga might have been still born were it not for Ralph McQuarrie’s convincing illustrations.
Images Left to Right: Heir to the Empire cover by Drew Struzan – the same artist who did so many movie covers. Jedi Trial cover by Steven D. Anderson – note the creative license with Anakin: though set before he became a full Knight he doesn’t have the short padawan haircut of episode 2, and Ventress bears only superficial resemblance to TV or comic versions. Vector Prime cover by Cliff Nielson – it’s not pretty but Luke is aged and that bizarre alien give a hint of ugly things ahead.
So if a juggernaut like Star Wars needed the art to take off, what gives? Where is the illustration, the artwork or even the photography combined with artwork in modern book covers, posters and the like? I don’t know, but I miss it. Some of it was cheesy. But now I can go online and find modern illustrations that are downright spectacular. Yet they don’t end up on book covers or movie posters. Those just get photos. Some are great, don’t get me wrong. But there is just something missing. Maybe it’s just the sense that if the illustration is that creative, the story must be too.
When it comes to Christmas, one almost get’s overloaded on Inspiration. Christmas carols, symbols and holiday lights are all around. Snowmen pop up where there is no snow, usually in plastic of inflatable form. And I’ve yet to encounter a retail store without some version of a Christmas Teddy Bear. For me, having a Christmas tree is one of the big things. It needn’t be a big tree. But there is something about the smell and the lights and pretty decorations that says “Christmas”. It somehow reminds me of the beauty of a star filled sky and a winter landscape with snowy trees even if it’s 60 degrees outside and the tree is on a table in the house.
I love the challenge of coming up with holiday horses and teddy bear designs. And I love admiring the ones I see, special made from Breyer Animal Creations, The Trail of the Painted Ponies, Vermont teddy bears, artist teddy bears and all sorts of others. I can’t often afford to buy, but I can admire them nonetheless.
But the greatest challenge of the season comes from wondering how to give that gift of inspiration to others. The relatives with doom and gloom in their hearts due to bills threaten to dampen my own spirit. In fact, however many bills we have and however difficult it is with a new job and limited funds to pay them, we are well off. Some people have nothing but a cardboard box. Some people don’t even have their freedom or their health.
And I must say I do get mad at people who stomp on the spirit. Not the ones who are just feeling low and worried, mind you. It’s why I don’t like black Friday or shopping Christmas Eve. It has nothing to do with how I feel about sales, or the commercial apsects. It’s because instead of inspiring the spirit of giving, it inspires greed. People trample each other just to buy a toy. They rob each other. They block traffic intersections even though they can’t go anywhere and gridlock a whole neighborhood. No. To me that is not what Christmas is about. That takes a sacred holiday (and I mean sacred to most of us, even non Christians) about giving and turns it into a ‘who got the most gifts cheapest and fastest’ festival.
Now for me, I believe in the Christmas story. The whole miracle of God’s son coming down as a tiny baby and being born in a stable is wonderful. Maybe it appeals to me more because it was a stable. Animals are somehow more open and honest than people. I’ve sure never had one lie to me. So it doesn’t seem like a bad place to be born. I would think it would be a quiet place. It’s the theme of the undeserved, unexpected and easily taken for granted special gift. A gift that arrived unlooked for. t’s easy to overlook such things in our modern world. We are busier, noisier and needier than ever before. Face it. Back then they didn’t need cars, or computers. But the modern American economy wish crash flat if they all ceased to function, and a sizable chunk of the rest of the world would too. Of course, I doubt Mary and Joseph thought of it as peaceful to begin with. Traveling by donkey and finding noisy crowds, then realizing she was about to give birth probably seemed pretty chaotic to them. Imagine Joseph’s reaction when she said the baby was coming. I can imagine him holding the donkey’s rope and going “NOW?” in dismay, whilst looking frantically around for somewhere, anywhere, for her to have the child. He was probably silently pleading with the promised ‘Son of God’ in her womb to stay there for just awhile longer.
Others may just enjoy Christmas as a time of giving gifts and being with family. I believe in Santa Claus too. Look him up you’ll find there really was a Santa Claus. Legend often starts as a grain of truth. It’s often seen in cheesy holiday movies these days that the kid realizes the Santa in the suit at the mall isn’t the ‘real’ Santa. But I’m not so sure of that. He may not be the original Santa. But I think Santa Claus comes back to the purest most basic form of the Christmas story: a giver of gifts, which contrary to the naughty and nice idea may not even be deserved or asked for. If they hold a generous heart every mall Santa is Santa. And so is every Dad assembling a new bike at two AM. Every Mom is Santa or Mrs. Santa even if she’s a single mom juggling two jobs trying desperately to feed the kid, let alone give them a gift.
Now for me, money is kind of tight. New job, old bills and the usual woes. But I know there are many people far worse off and this is my prayer: That they should all be given that gift of the unexpected kindness this Christmas. An unexpected dinner from a friend, a bill paid they weren’t sure how to cover, the hug of true friendship and an unexpected bonus of a special toy or music or other inspirational gift.
And I will believe, I have to, both on Christmas and off that we have to have faith in more than just our own little selves. If I only had that, I’d be a wreck. How could I hope to pay these bills? To earn enough money? On my own, I couldn’t. Because it takes more than one person to support one person. It takes an employer to hire, customers who want whatever your offering, family and friends to support when your low or when the first two aren’t available. It takes agencies to help with bills, or job seeking. It takes doctors and nurses to help one stay healthy. Not a one of us really truly functions alone. And when you see someone homeless on the street, they may not have gotten there alone either. Are they really too lazy to work, or do they have health or mental issues? Do they have family? Would they take help if it was offered? Sometimes it only takes one act of kindness to make a difference. And to give that you have to have that Christmas faith that it will help, even if you can’t see the results in the short term or perhaps ever at all. Call it ‘Do unto others’ or even Karma, but in the end the kindness comes back in unexpected ways.
The most important thing about Christmas inspirations is, it has to hold for more than just a day. The power of giving an unexpected kindness is just as strong throughout the year. It has to be because the rest of the year there are no Christmas trees or bright holiday lights to remind us.