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.
Looking back on our founding father’s woes, its not a shock to realize that we have been a nation divided almost from the start. In order to get all the colonies to agree on the Constitution, they had to let a few things go. The biggest thing was slavery. Pretty ironic, that in order to get a free nation, the founders had to agree to leave some enslaved. Of course, the natives of this land were not considered at all.
The division is there to this day. Getting rid of slavery did not get rid of the problem. The real problem was greed, people putting their business over human life. They might be more subtle about it, but they are still at it. Whether it’s conniving land from mustangs and wild life for cattle and mining, or cutting corners to stuff more animals for slaughter into a farm, they care more about money than their fellow beings..
That’s the real secret of American freedom. That freedom’s cost isn’t just sending people out to defend it. It’s about defending it from greed right here. It’s about saying no to something because it curtails freedoms. But it’s not so easy to identify it. There is so much demanding our time and attention, it’s easy to just focus on issues we believe affect us.
That’s what the sophisticated greedy think. If they throw enough one sided info at you, maybe you won’t notice they are not telling you everything. Maybe you won’t notice the lies.
For instance, I hear all sorts going on about jobs and the big pipelines. On the other side, I hear about environmental risk. Truth be told, I’ve yet to hear or see anything that told both sides at once. Now the truth is, they are both right. We need jobs, but that doesn’t mean we’d be willing to literally pay with our health or the destruction of our land. Some things, you can’t pay to fix. So the real question is, if these people want to be helpful and run their business and create jobs, why do they think the pennies they save are worth the cost of safety?
My point here is, when it comes right down to the wire, America has two spirits vying for control. One is that wonderful spirit of freedom, independence, help others and creativity that inspired it in the first place. The other is that stubborn pride in money that refused to sign the Constitution if slavery was banned.
That second spirit has new forms now. It hides in businesses that say ‘we are creating jobs’ while cutting corners for profit and dumping toxins that make people sick. The people with those jobs lose either way, because even if you earn money and have health insurance, you end up spending on health care, assuming even that will cure them! They also claim that while dumping huge amounts of money into their account they can’t pay the workers any more.
What’s terrifying is how these people respond to challenge. They take advantage of their funds to pay for lawyers to get them out of it. Worse, some government agencies are in cahoots. The way the Bureau of Land Management is run, you’d think that land all belonged to them personally, rather than the citizens of America.
I believe when the average person celebrates the Fourth, we are celebrating our freedom, the hope of that chance to not only have a job, but a fulfilling life. But do we? I hope so. But we have to keep battling that other spirit. Gunpowder can make for fabulous fireworks. Our country is full of magnificent creatures, wild and free. It’s up to us to do our best to see they are their for future generations. It’s up to us to save that gunpowder for the fireworks and not waste in blowing each other up. It’s up to us to keep our authority figures reminded that we elected them to serve us, not their own wallet. To remind the big corporations that without their workers and buyers, they have nothing. To remind the police that they are there to protect and serve, not bully the people who essentially are paying them.
So here’s to the Fourth of July and our continued fight for independence. May the right spirit win!
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!
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:
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.
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.
When going to art school or taking classes I note they give a lot of attention to the old masters. Art history and it’s appreciation is often a requirement. This is understandable, for knowing where we come from is important.
But how many of us truly have started art because of them? In my case, inspiration came from elsewhere and only later did it lead me to an appreciation of it’s history.
Art of the Story
My love of horses came from books I read and movies I saw. This means that illustrators, writers and movie makers had an impact long before I realized they were artists in their own right. A peacefully grazing horse or one napping in it’s stall is lovely. But the ones rearing, galloping, leaping and playing are the ones that seem the most alive. To me, they are art in motion in and of themselves. Some films like The Black Stallion revealed this in full glory.
Art of the Movie
As a fan of science fiction I only gradually realized that my beloved Star Wars had to start in an art studio. Without Ralph McQuarrie’s designs, it may never have come to pass. Artists painted backgrounds, built models and invented an entire industry for special effects. Some of these same artists went on to create Photoshop and the modern software that now creates art in 3D. And where would it be without the awesome movie poster art of Drew Struzan?
Art of the Game
Video games are created, in part by artists and I am highly and personally aware they are on target in their ideas about education and games. I recall flunking lessons in how to read music in grade school. Yet I started to get the hang of it playing a video game version of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. I never did finish the game, but I did learn to read music enough to play the right tune on the skulls! Amazing what a difference the approach makes. I couldn’t learn for the grade, I doubt if you offered me money I could get it. Somehow getting Indy through to that tomb helped me learn it!
Art History meets them all and becomes more appealing.
Finally, full circle I’ve come to notice art history, not just through art classes but through TV and the movies. A few odd artists are more intriguing when encountered by a very young Indiana Jones. An episode where Doctor Who meets Van Gogh suddenly makes the man come alive in a way the old school story of ‘he’s the guy that cut off his ear’ never did. Then there is my favorite show White Collar. Take and FBI agent and his ‘former’ art forger criminal consultant, set them loose in New York solving art heists and the like and the whole world of art history and museums has an all new appeal. Their accuracy is questionable: this is fiction after all. Sometimes they use real artists, sometimes they invent them. But the real point is not whether it’s true. It’s the fact that they got my attention and aroused my interest in the first place.
Tapping into what’s already there.
Is it just me changing? I don’t really think so. I think it’s always been true, that if you plug the subject to be learned into what a person is already interested in, it engages in a way that would otherwise be dry and boring. As my growing curiosity about art history leads me around the web I’ve definitely noticed who seems to be tapping in and who doesn’t and how.
Art Galleries Online
Some art galleries have gone highly interactive. A look at the Google Art Project. It can take you to museums around the world many of us will never have a chance to set foot in. Some have podcasts or videos online. Some have interactive games or tools to study certain artworks or artists.
Others still have the most boring, bland websites with tiny print and navigation that certainly doesn’t take account for people who might have trouble seeing it. They may be easier on an older computer in general, but they are definitely a turn off in comparison. The odd thing is the great stuff is usually for kids. Why is it the world thinks adults want a ‘dull’ approach? Why can’t it be fun no matter what your age?
So now I’m gradually coming to know who of the old masters I like and why, what mediums I’d like to try even if I have to imitate them on the computer. I love drawing and am willing to try drawing nearly anything. But I could do horses with my eyes closed and in my sleep. As for my writing, well, it’s no surprise I’ve written Star Wars and White Collar fanfics and I love their websites. I’ve written other science fiction but I’ve yet to try and publish it.
Warning: Creative License may bend the facts.
And then there is that little catch to all this. If you are going to tap into these interests – learning through pop culture can’t end there. Don’t assume pop culture did it’s homework. Pocohantas and Mulan are wonderful female heroes. But Disney’s version isn’t exactly full of truth. The movies, games, TV and historical fiction are a springboard to look deeper. These aren’t flat words on a page or a cardboard picture painted by some guy way back when. They were real people and events with lives and loves, fears, mental illness and physical and economic challenges. That’s the part that’s inspiring. How many of them would imagine our world today? How many would dare dream it’s technology? Would they dare even imagine the prices their work would sell for or the things we would say? Would they be amazed at how much we know or fall over laughing at how far from the truth we had come?
What are your inspirations?
Here are a sites for some of mine that include games, episodes, forums and all sorts of interactivity.
*Note – Remember when doing fan art or fan fiction it is not something you can legally sell. Making money off of it violates copyright law.It makes great practice and can be shared for free fun among your fellow fans. But please remember the actors, writers and artists of these shows too, are out there to earn a living. We wouldn’t want them to stop our favorite show to earn money waiting tables. At least, I wouldn’t!*