Sunday, March 29, 2015

"I Got This"

I think that this particular panel pretty much sums up my positive outlook on just about everything. Onward through the ice fog!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Sack of The Arts

They're at it again: faced with budget cuts the legislative solution is to lay out the arts for gutting. Nevermind the elephant in the room (and that can be interpreted another way): when administrative costs and enumerable other misplaced priorities are factored into the equation, education - specifically the arts in this instance - will always be the perennial sacrificial lamb moose. And this is happening hand in glove at both the borough district schools and at the university level, so it's a wholesale assault on programs and classes that enrich not just our communities now, but on our collective, cultural future.
Case in point: $1.4 Billion was promised as credits to the oil companies and $32.2 Million was promised to the children of Alaska. Should the State break its "promise" to the oil companies, or should it break its promise to the schoolchildren of Alaska? How we cut, where we cut, makes all the difference. - "Keep The Promise" Sitka School District
 The ruling party has a vested self-interest in perpetuating - in this case investing in - a status quo of ignorance in aesthetics and ethics: after all it secures and expands their prospective, future voting base. Which appears to be the only investment in “education” they value. But it's ultimately the fault of voters - or more specifically the nonvoters who allow these barbarians to routinely pillage like this. Remember that - remember this - the next election.

And as for the Fairbanks North Star Borough School Board, you should be ashamed. In fact, maybe you should have the common sense and decency to simply resign. All of you. In accordance with your stated objectives, your priorities are corrupted... and someone ought to change your mission statements to reflect this. Consider this your formal Notice of Doubtful Status.

I know a lot of folks who only made it through school on account of there being art and music classes. For me the studios were an oasis of individuality in a sea of rules and conformity. And each and every time I do a guest artist gig at a school in art classes, I run across many a student who wouldn’t have stuck with it if it weren’t for some other avenue of expression for them. Also, as an example of how these classes round people out into future adults with diverse interests, appreciations and abilities, I don’t personally know any artists who aren’t also something else: a scientist, a teacher, a cook, a parent, a mechanic, an accountant, etc. Personally I don’t know many people who also don’t enjoy some kind of art, there's always something, a certain song, that made their day better, if not their entire life more worth living. It’s as much a part of our lives as it is a part of school: we learn new things about ourselves and other people when we share it.

Update: Alaska Commons reports on one of the saddest, hypocritical posturing and disingenuous maneuvering with "Legislators Dedicate Week to ‘School Choice’ in Alaska." These selfsame committee members - including deluded Democrats and Independent politicians who participate in the ongoing charade - are following the standard cynical Republican approach to education (as with every other governmental function): consistently oppose, derail, undermine and underfund it, so that when it finally starts to break, they can then point at the smoking wreckage and say “See – we TOLD you it doesn’t work!” Then repeat, ad nauseum, until their ultimate objective of for-profit privatization is achieved. It's part of a self-fulfilling cycle of crippling our schools, which ensures parents will instead enroll their kids in charter schools… because they offer things like… the arts.

Insert “a markedly derogatory term for a person who behaves stupidly.” I’ve just about exhausted my repertoire of insulting and pejorative words used to describe politicians, as the language instilled in me during my (de)formative years is generally frowned upon in polite company. Which I am most decidedly not, at least when it comes to some of the slack-jawed idiocy and contempt on display by elected officials, especially when it comes to matters of education.

This is how bad it’s gotten: it’s scraping the bottom of the barrel when someone like me decides that they’ve had enough of such rampant stupidity. By that I mean A) someone who is not a parent and has no children in the district, and B) is themselves a highschool dropout. You’d think those two points alone would disqualify anyone from taking an interest in the process, especially in conjunction with a deep-seated, inherent distrust of both of the bureaucratic monoliths of governmental + educational power structures. Sad to say it’s true, when things devolve to this point even folks like me sit up and take notice. I’m past being polite, I’m pissed: it’s political, it’s personal.

"If I don't hafta pay for my art than nobody else should either"

Update II: True to form + party dictates (predictable as ever), Wasilla Rep. Lynn Gattis has proposed doing away with the 1% for Art program with HB 160: "REPEAL ART IN PUBLIC PLACES REQUIREMENT."  One can only hazard a guess as to her personal aesthetic sensibilities, but it's a good bet maybe a picture or two on the office wall would help with staring out the window while at work.

Update III: And yet another Wasilla Republican just gutted all the funds for Alaska Public Media (television + radio). Link.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

"John 1:23"

Actually I'm of the opinion it's a melodic symphony that promotes a feeling of inner peace and tranquility. Most of the time.

One thing I miss about residing in rural settings outside of the city limits and the ensuing noise ordinances is the loss of this ubiquitous background chorus that is a signature of the Alaskan soundscape.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Just When You Thought It Was SafeTo Go Back In The Water....

Needless to say, dam excited about today's official US release of this feature film (website here), for obvious reasons. Personally think a local showing will be in order...

Sunday, March 15, 2015

"Iditatoon: IKR?"

     Current Yukon Quest champ Musher Brent Sass (Wild & Free Mushing) was summarily disqualified from the 2015 Iditarod after having an iPod, a disappointing sequel to last year's bowing out of the race. A Go Fund Me account has been started to help defray the cost, and reward a true sportsman's acquiescence to what most folk's are seeing as a thoroughly blown call on the part of race officials. On a related note, IMHO the winners of these competitions also always include the mushers who make the tough calls and have their priorities - the welfare of the dogs - well in order.
     On a meta-level, it's an interesting point to consider how even acronyms in the texting vernacular are considered by some to still be outside the bounds of polite discourse - IOW when the slang for swearing is rated as equally offensive as the words themselves.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

"Don Young: Homeless"

Whelp, the Congressman-At-Large for Alaska did it again:
Alaska Republican Rep. Don Young, famous for his salty tongue and brusque demeanor, suggested Thursday that if he let loose wolves in some congressional districts, they “wouldn’t have a homeless problem anymore.”
Most modern politicians are a bit more media-savvy when it comes to keeping their mouths shut and essentially running silent, preferring to let their ugly, hateful legislation speak for themselves instead. So in a twisted sort of way it's refreshing to have someone like Don Young let the entire world know exactly what kind of a person he really is.

Update: John Aronno over Alaska Commons caught an even more chilling segment in the same testimony, since the usual nuggets of idiocy really don't possess the power to surprise people all that much anymore:
He asked then for the “the background determination of each Park Service employee in the state of Alaska and where they came from and their prior employment. I want to know that for my own record. You understand what I’m saying?”
Jewell looked confused as she answered that she wasn’t sure what he was talking about.
“Every person working for the Park Service in the state of Alaska,” Young continued, slowing his speech to annunciate syllables. “The term of residency, where they came from and their background of where they were employed before the Park Service.”
To be sure, comparatively speaking, statements like the one about wolves + the homeless might not be interpreted as being all that horrible (there's plenty of worse uttered almost weekly by others in the House and the Senate) by many apolitical folks, but it's indicative of a belligerent and malicious personality, which by any objective critique is fully on display for many of his more infamously combative and bullying appearances, like this one for example (see here and here also).

Update II: Even more irony when juxtaposed against recent and ongoing efforts to combat the scourge of homelessness wildlife in Alaska:
FAIRBANKS — Crews from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game shot 18 wolves from the air this week near Allakaket in the third year of a program to boost moose populations in the upper Koyukuk River drainage.
To paraphrase a friend's comment, let them eat their young...

Friday, March 13, 2015

Up With Comics!

Just a brief side-post here that you ought to drop by the Fairbanks Arts Association's Bear Gallery this month and catch the 2015 "Up With Art" district-wide art exhibition. Of course with my bias there's one piece in particular that tops the show: one of Maria Frantz's works nabbed a big blue ribbon (she scored at last year's gig also).
Check out her "Blue Street" webcomic here.

A crowd-pleaser that stole the show!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Too True: Words to Make Art By

"Usually the dumbest thing you do is the most important"

Perhaps one of the greatest aphorisms I've ever heard was this surreptitious comment from visiting artist Dennis Sipiorski, during his presentation as juror for the Fairbanks Arts Association's annual 64th Parallel exhibit. As I was in the front row, I also thought my POV of gold-painted cowboy boot + ubiquitous Xtra-Tuffs summed up the cultural divide between Louisiana and Alaska quite nicely.

Via Brain Pickings: All my art friends, prospective, current and former students, and aspiring talents alike will all find something to empathize with, relate to and learn from in this excerpted keynote address by sculptor Teresita Fernández, and a list of blunt perspectives from her experience like this one:
When people say your work is good do two things. First, don’t believe them. Second, ask them, “Why”? If they can convince you of why they think your work is good, accept the compliment. If they can’t convince you (and most people can’t) dismiss it as superficial and recognize that most bad consensus is made by people simply repeating that they “like” something.
Another visiting artist to our neck of the woods, Jakob Trollbäck, who was part of the excellent Alaska Design Forum's annual lecture series, had this to say when asked about his impressions of Alaska:
"So much nothing that is beautiful."

Saturday, March 7, 2015

"Lead Dog"

Every once in a while, especially after a series of presentations to classes about my personal artistic inspirations, I cast a critical eye back over at my own work. At times this is an opportunity to address some dissatisfaction that might be simmering away, maybe start thinking about making some changes. For example: if I really like pen & ink textures in other people's work (Sendak, Gorey, Crumb, to name just a few favorites) then why don't I have more of it in my own?

There's also an objective awareness that maybe I'm beginning to rely too much on the tech, namely Photoshop, and need to "return to my roots" as it were, in other words, back to the basics with simple pen + ink, basic black & white. Though to be sure oftentimes the time spend dallying with other techniques will cycle back and inform the core body of work, affect it somehow - usually for better, sometimes for worse.

Not to belabor the obvious, but I really love cartoons. I mean, everything from the history of cartooning and about the creators themselves, to reading and collecting them and teaching about them. But most of all I love making them: case in point being this panel. It's fairly rare to lean back in the studio chair long after the ink has dried and look at a panel and nod to myself in satisfaction. Specifically, I really suck at cars: they're insanely hard... too complicated and just take too long to draw. One could also argue my animals - dogs in this specific instance - don't look so hot either (humans also don't fare so well). And by that I mean realistic... which is absolutely not the point of  cartoon. So within one single frame, I get to render the interior of a vehicle plus three dogs without actually drawing really much of anything at all. Just a handful of suggestive lines and a bunch of simple shapes that (hopefully) impart to the viewer enough visual cues to successfully interpret the image as being what it stands for. Deconstructing it after the fact is one of the main themes of this blog, but like pretty much with every single new silly picture it's still a surprise to see it spill out from the end of pen right in front of you.

This panel, which ran in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner just last weekend, is one of a growing series done largely on account of not only the annual Yukon Quest, but also a rare restart for the Iditarod moved all the way up to our neck of the woods. So our community has quite literally gone to the dogs!

Also by way of a major teaser, I did this one while in the middle of an artist-in-residency gig (stay 'tooned for upcoming posts about the epic event in its entirety), during the demonstration portion of the day when I'm working in a publicly accessible setting somewhere within the school. Needless to say this one went over well with the kids  - and parents - as it's something a lot of us can probably relate to from our upbringings.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

"Musher Garage"

Another in a short series of relatively complex scenarios depicting a twist on banal situations with which I have no end of familiarity with. Waiting rooms are rather like banishment to Limbo, or at the least a Purgatory.
In the original version I had Faux News on the tv screen, which injected too much politics into a benign panel - even through I subconsciously associate a monitor with Fox droning in the background of just about every waiting room. Usually then I either turn down the volume, change the channel or wait elsewhere, if not just walk out - so it was artistically analogous to just edit it away (and as with every other alternative image I experimented with, it wound up being to distracting). Also edited out a completely overkilling lens flare (as per J.J. Abrams), which in conjunction with the opacity setting for the background car tipped the panel a little too much into Photoshop-y territory, ie too aesthetically "slick.".

Note on the pencil stage the propensity to sketch right through objects - treating them as if they were transparent - so as to better enable a layering of elements and in turn project a slightly better illusion of a 3-dimensional space on a 2-dimensional sheet of Bristol. One reason to develop a little finesse with line weight, as in learn to not have a heavy hand when initially plotting out the compositional arrangement of visual elements is setting the stage for the actors + their props as it were. And it cuts down on the eraser shrapnel that, aside from crumpled up wads of paper + pencil shavings, are about the only byproduct of the process. That and a sketchbook full of doodles... ideas are everywhere.