The Virtue of Television

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!

Fedora Bear St. Patrick's Day Greeting Card  Boss Birthday Bear

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?


Inspired to Learn

Learning is part desire and part sheer stubborn determination. If you love something you want to learn it. Even if you don’t, the idea of being conquered may not be acceptable.

The Stubborn
Learning WordPress, for instance, is my refusal to be beaten by a piece of software. But I hope you’ll forgive any odd places a Permalink sends you, for they are not cooperating. They are determined to have the blog itself as the main site page and everything is therefore out of whack. I know it is one tiny bit of code in many pages that is probably the cause. Finding it is the issue.

I have purchased a book on wordpress and am doing my best to figure out how to correct these things, as well as back it up, without causing anything to blow up, vanish or otherwise scramble my site.


The Love

Love on the other hand, is what made me learn to draw. What it was about horses that called me, I don’t know. Sometime when I was little I got bit by ‘the horse bug’. It’s incurable, although it may lie dormant for several years if significant others, children, school and job are loud enough to override it. But it never goes away completely.

The drawing part started with a book, called Pounding Hooves. The girl who (as usual) pines for a horse makes money by drawing. Suddenly, I wanted to do that too.

I started with tracing horses off of book covers. I found one book with a picture that included parts of the horse. Now I could trace that, label it. Then I could label all the others. Then I tried to draw without tracing and if I had all the parts labeled, I was doing something right. If not, I tried again.


Have you ever wanted to learn to draw more than stick figures?

Here is a secret that many people forget, or lose, in this pessimistic age. ANYONE CAN DRAW. Remember when you were a kid and doodled and colored without shame? Well, the truth is we all start with ‘stick’ figures and odd shaped people. Then, as we grow older, we realize our ‘art’ doesn’t come anywhere close to reality. Then comes the disillusionment.

Those of us who are good at art aren’t just talented. That’s only part of it. Some take three times as long to learn as others. Some are better then others. But I do think everyone can go beyond stick figures.

But they won’t, for the same reason I’ll never be an accountant. I don’t love numbers and don’t want to put in the time to improving my math to that level. There are only so many hours of the day, and someone invented the calculator.  It takes PRACTICE, many hours of it, to get good at everything. I’m still learning.

I still  practice portraits (my favorite movie and TV characters are my chosen ‘experimentees’) and I need reference pictures for many things, like dogs. That’s just the drawing part. Then there are all the different mediums like painting, pastels, digital and more.

Here are a few tips for those who want to learn to draw and willing to put the time in:

  1. Do what you LOVE. Want to draw people? Do fan art for your favorite movie, tv show or book. You can even try your family. Dogs? Go for it.
  2. Look out for media extras. If you love movies, you may have noticed the trend in DVD extras. Often the storyboards, making of information and interviews with creators can be inspiring. This goes for ‘Art of’ books too such as Lord of the Rings, Star Wars or Narnia. Spirit has an excellent tutorial on drawing horses. Their is a great section in the Star Wars prequels on the art section as well.
  3.  Look for free sources like videos, tutorials and photos to work from.
  4.  Watch out for the copyright snare when drawing from other people’s pictures. As long as you are practicing, you are fine. That is free and fair use. Draw from the photo, trace, that’s how I did it. But remember: if you sell, that’s a copyright violation. Wait until you don’t need that source for anything but a casual reminder as to the shape of a particular dog breed’s ears or something. You need to be able to call the work your own to sell it legally. Mind you, you don’t need to be good at everything. I could do horses asleep with my off hand. Anything else takes more work.

What to use:

Any paper will do for practice except cheap newsprint or some of the kids drawing paper. You want something you can erase easily without a big mess or ripping to practice on. You can invest in good paper whenever you feel you are ready.

Any decent pencil, but you can get a range between 8H, HB (the usual) to 8B which is lightest to darkest. You want light for when you plan to erase a lot.

A good eraser: plastic erasers are great, rubber is crumbly, but generally, just get a good chunk.  You’ll find an eraser at the end of the pencil wears out pretty quick!

Drawing on the computer: If you have a decent drawing program and are really good with a mouse, why not? Their are two kinds of programs for it: vector and raster. Raster programs look more pixelated when resized, but they tend to feel more natural, more similar to using regular art tools. Vector is more ‘computerish’ and resizes easily. You can buy or even find free programs for both.

You can also find tablets to draw on (not the newer ipad type stuff) that come with a pen and plug in a computer’s usb port to allow even more natural action.


Finally: Draw what you love, be stubborn and when you look at a pile of rejected drawings remember:  that’s how we ALL started.