Drawing On New Experiences

Dog drawing lesson step by Michael Thoenes from DrawingTeachers.com

My friend Mathis was kind enough to call me on something.

My friend Michael gave me the opportunity.

I’m grateful to them both.

I was having lunch with Mathis one day a while back, and he was pitching me on a project he thought I should undertake as a potential way to make money. And I was debating why I wasn’t sure that it would actually work as a revenue source. To be fair, I still agree, though I have sort of begun recently to work on the project regardless, just for the sake of doing it.

Mathis finally looked at me, and said, “Fine, let me put it a different way — Get off your butt.”

And he was right. In the three months or so I’d been out of work at that point, I’d written very little. In fact, at that point, I was blogging only very sporadically and had pretty much stopped writing in my journal.

I needed to write.

So I started writing.

First by just taking my blogging more seriously and then by returning to journaling.

And then Michael gave me a chance to do a bit more.

Michael runs the DrawingTeachers.com website, and needed some articles to go on it, so he said he’d pay me to write some for him. I not only have something to write, I’m selling words again! It’s nice.

But I’ve particularly enjoyed it because it’s been a fun challenge. I know very little about drawing, certainly not teaching people to draw, so Michael has given me the information for each page on how to write the articles in such a way as to help people who are looking for the lessons to find them. Basically, I’m learning how to write better for the web, and I’m getting paid to do it. How cool is that!

Feel free to go check out the website, I have my own David Hitt writer page and have several articles up already, with more coming soon:

Various and Sundry, Part Something

Things going on in my life lately that aren’t worth entire posts:

— I have a few buy-one-get-one-free tickets to Saturday’s Face2Face Improv show for people that have not been to see us before, and would like to. That said, I won’t be in the show, which might actually be a plus in some people’s book. I will be in a show Friday at Kenny Mango’s Coffee Shop in Madison. I will not be in tomorrow night’s show at Sam & Greg’s, but should be back next Tuesday.

— After writing that post a few weeks back about Apple’s recent successes, etc., I decided that I should be an Apple stockholder again, so now I am. And, yes, I’ve already lost money. Wheee!

— I forget if I blogged about the contest that was being held as a collaboration between NASA and craft site Etsy to create space-themed art projects, but the finalists have been posted in the three categories, and include an awesome space-Western shirt designed by my friend Melissa Meek, so you should go vote for her.

— The book I co-wrote with astronauts Owen Garriott and Joe Kerwin,  Homesteading Space: The Skylab Story,has been selected for a paperback edition. It won’t be available for another year, however, so don’t let that stop you from buying the slightly-more-expensive-but-better-quality hardcover edition in the meantime. But, hey, I’ll be a paperback writer, paperback writer.

— I wrote a post earlier this year about wanting to participate in The Jonah Project, in which people with differing viewpoints read The Unlikely Disciple and then discuss it. Well, I found my nemesis, applied for the project, got selected, and, finally, after a very lengthy delay, received the books, and finished reading it. I’m participating in the project with my good friend Joe Gurner, and the resulting discussions have been very interesting. Joe and I had a general idea where the other stood on a lot of issues (to wit, as far from the other as possible), but I think this may be the first time we’ve actually really discussed a lot of those things, and it’s been fascinating. I’m blessed (can I say that? lucky?) to have a friend with whom I can have such an enjoyable conversation about such loaded topics.

— After our unsuccessful attempt to watch the space shuttle launch, I took Heather’s sons out this weekend to launch model rockets, as an attempt to capture some of the excitement the scrub didn’t inspire. Needless to say, I was utterly unable to put anything in the air. Sigh. Rather embarrassing to be such a poor space pitchman to a sympathetic audience. They were really good sports about it, however, and we’ll probably try again soon.

— ADDENDUM: Welcome to the world, Baxter Hughes. Hope you enjoy it! You’ve got a good tour guide to start you out, kid.

“Sardines and Crackers”

Those who know me well know two facts about me, both of which are relevant to today’s post:

1) I don’t have a lot of favorites. I don’t have a favorite color or book or ice cream or song.

2) I take comic strips very seriously for a thirty-something. (May come from writing one. [If sporadically.])

So, with those two facts in mind, it means something then when I say that Arlo and Janis is my favorite comic strip.

If you’re not familiar with Jimmy Johnson’s Arlo and Janis, you can read each day’s new strip at Comics.com, and you can read selected classics at Johnson’s official Arlo and Janis page.

It’s hard for me to describe exactly why I love Arlo and Janis so much. It’s funny, which helps a lot. But it’s real. I identify with it, and I don’t think I’m alone in that. It’s real in the sense that (much to Johnson’s initial disappointment) there are no talking animals. There are no dinosaurs or wizards. Just a couple and their son and cat, and the world they live in. But it’s also real in the sense that the couple and their world are completely believable. Johnson captures an emotional tapestry of marriage and work and life and adulthood (an early theme of the strip that continues even as the characters gradually age) that resonates.

And I love it because I want to be Arlo Day when I (kind of) grow up. I want to enjoy life and be silly and love deeply and unabashedly sensually and I want to pine after time on a sail boat. I want to live, and be unashamed of wanting that life to be fun, even if it also has to be all responsible. Yes, the strip is about adulthood, but Arlo embodies the C.S. Lewis quote, “When I became a man, I put away childish things including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”

Which brings us to this:

Arlo and Janis Sardines and Crackers comic strip

"Sardines and Crackers" -- Click for larger version

While Arlo and Janis is my favorite comic, I’ll be the first to admit that’s not my favorite individual strip. It’s a decent Arlo strip, but I’m not a sardines and crackers kinda guy, and I’m generally hit-or-miss on the cat strips.

So why am I posting it?

Because it’s mine.

Jimmy Johnson sold a batch of original artwork on eBay, and I bought one. Specifically, that one.

Like I said, it wasn’t my favorite of the batch, but it was the one that I was able to get using the Buy It Now feature, meaning I picked it up for less than the ones that are being auctioned go for. It was still a decent chunk of change for a comic strip, but I just got some birthday money and some improv show checks, so what better way to spend money for my birthday and for being funny than by indulging on a humorous birthday gift for myself, right?

He posted twelve strips yesterday, five of which were bought outright, and the remainder are still available for auction. I had a friend help me try to buy my favorite of the batch, but couldn’t get it before someone submitted a bit, ending the Buy It Now option. With two and a half days left in the auction, it’s already up to a hundred dollars more than I paid for mine. Even having bought one, there are a couple more I’m keeping an eye on, but I imagine they’ll exceed my price range before they’re sold.

Which, I will also point out, means that my purchase was a good investment, in an art collector sense. ‘Cause that’s totally why I did it. (I wish now I’d used that logic a while back to buy Johnson’s one now-out-of-print collection, Arlo and Janis: Bop ‘Till You Drop.I bought a copy a few years ago for my friend Lain at what seemed then like a pretty high price for a comic strip collection, but which was less than a fifth of what you would now pay on Amazon. I kinda wish now I’d bought a second copy for myself at that price.)

Point being, I’m rather happy. I’ve been a fan of the strip for 18 years, and I’m excited about having a greater connection to it.

Somehow, I think Arlo would understand.

Not My Type …

… but I wish it was.

Paint The Moon For You

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I just had to share this video of Stephen Colbert’s interview with Alan Bean. Good stuff. Bean is just a cool, neat guy, and it really comes across in this video.

A handful of thoughts watching it:

He talks in the video about how he cuts up his patches to put some moon dust in each of his paintings, possibly the only way normal citizens can acquire even that tiny amount of lunar material today. I’ve seen those patches, framed on the wall of his studio area of his house, and it’s bizarre. These are history, selections from a very limited number of artifacts from one of the greatest achievements of human history, and they’re gradually being taken apart until they’re gone. It would be like if someone had an original copy of the Constitution hanging on his wall that he was slowly cutting up. I’m sympathetic and possibly supportive of what Bean’s doing and why; I’m not saying he’s wrong to do it. I’m just saying, to actually see it, it’s viscerally bizarre.

Bean talks about the fact that the original Apollo astronauts won’t be around much longer, and it just drives home how incredibly fortunate I am to have met him and some of the others, and the responsibility that comes with that; the day will come when it won’t be possible to meet the moonwalkers first hand, the closest you’ll be able to come is talking to people who did, and reading their preserved histories. I’m incredibly honored and blessed to have been a part of both, and hope to be worthy of that legacy.

Alan Bean is cool. Have I mentioned that? He’s just a neat guy.

In introducing Bean, Colbert refers to him as the fourth man to walk on the moon, and even though the phrasing was different, something about the cadence reminded me of Hefner’s song Alan Bean, and how the interview belies the opening lines: “Everyone will forget soon / the fourth man on the moon.”

The song isn’t making that argument, it’s imagining what Bean would have been thinking. It’s a beautiful song, and one that I connect with several parts of:

Ever felt like giving up?
I’ve felt like giving up.
But not since 1969.

I found a greater truth,
At a godly altitude,
Won’t waste another day of my life.

As we tumbled down to earth,
We felt the capsule turn,
We saw the blue skies burn.

As we splashed down in the sea,
You were praying on your knees,
It bought a change in me.

Everyone will forget soon,
The fourth man on the moon,
But I’ve got it in my mind.

I’d like to paint your eyes,
But I’ve got to paint the sky.
Going to be a painter all my life.
As we tumbled down to earth,
We felt the capsule turn,
We saw the blue skies burn.

As we splashed down in the sea,
You were praying on your knees,
It bought a change in me.

And what you didn’t see,
I’ll let you see through me.
I’m going to paint the moon for you.

Ever felt like giving up?
‘We’ve felt like giving up’
Ever felt like giving up?
‘All the time.’

(When did “Stories …” become a music blog? That’s all I’m writing about now, apparently. This post doesn’t even have anything to do with music, but half of it’s lyrics. Hrm.)

Eye Of The Beholder

OK, I’ve been meaning to write this post since February and have been putting it off, but I can’t write about Jennifer Knapp being gay until I do, so, here goes:

My primary congregation values art.

Sojourn displays members’ art in the brewery where we meet, includes video and other art projects in services, and has a creative arts team, of which I’m a member.

A while back, we had a meeting on “The Good, The True and The Beautiful,” discussing what an artist’s intent should be in creating “Christian art.” The title of the discussion reflected what the goal was hypothesized to be — “Our art must be in the character of our God, who himself is good, (Ps107:1, 119:68), true (Isa45:19, Thess1:9) and beautiful (Ps 27:4).” It went on to say that it doesn’t mean avoiding portraying anything ugly, since there can be beauty in truth.

The discussion led into the artists’ intent — “what are 3-5 questions we can ask ourselves that will help us determine whether or not our art is in character of our God who is good, true, and beautiful?” — and about willingness for artists to put together a statement of intent for artwork to be displayed at the church.

The point seemed two-fold. The surface layer is that it would help viewers to understand the artwork; rather than forcing viewers to look for their own meaning and possibly get the wrong thing out of the piece, the artist should provide his or her own exegesis. But the other layer is that it would screen the artwork — It would help prevent things that were created for self rather than God, or that weren’t truly spiritual in nature, from being displayed in the church.

And, you know, that last sentence does a pretty decent job of capturing my problem with that idea. I had to decide which word to use to end that sentence with — “church,” or “brewery.” And for a lot of people, those words make uneasy synonyms. But while most people look at the Olde Towne building and see something secular, Sojourn looks at it and sees something spiritual. So who are we to say artwork can’t be the same way.

I wrote a post a while back on that subject regarding music; that, for me, there are songs that are not intended as spiritual at all, but because they do such a good job capturing the truth of the human condition, they can’t help put have a spiritual meaning if you choose to listen to them that way; so much of what the heart desires on this Earth is a manifestation of a deeper desire to know, and experience the grace of, our God, to love and be loved by Him.

The issue then isn’t the intent of the artist, because focusing on that limits God. The idea that His goodness, truth and beauty can only be manifested by someone who is endeavoring to do so is almost blasphemy. It limits His greatness. He can be seen in any part of His creation, from the beauty of a sunset to the truth of a song written by anyone, since we are all part of that creation.

The trick isn’t to teach artists how to present that truth; in a way, it’s almost inevitable. The trick is to train people to recognize that. Don’t teach Sojourn artists how to create art about God. Teach Sojourn members how to recognize God in the art that’s created.

Because that goes far deeper than just dealing with the art that hangs on the wall of the brewery. A person who has developed that ability has taken a huge step in the path toward better knowing God. When you know how to see Him in the art in the brewery without a statement of intent, you know how to see Him in the art at the Huntsville Museum of Art, not only with a statement of the artists’ intent, but often without the artist even having that intent at all. You know how to see Him in His art — the thunderstorm or the butterfly or the falling leaves. You learn to see Him in human life, from glory to gutter. You learn to recognize how everything from the stars to the sand shouts testimony to His wonder, how the mountains preach the truth of who He is.

His creation is singing to you, singing of Him. Will you listen?

Hope Springs Eternal

This is the latest in my series of blog entries taking a fresh look at a variety of topics over the next year. I’ve set up a page on the blog explaining the project and linking to my entries. This week’s topic is “Signs Of Spring.”

Next weeks’ topic is “Signs of Autumn.” This presents a challenge. I actually have much more to say about that topic. Really, this topic, it’s hard to write about without making a comparison. Writing about spring in the context of fall would be easy. By itself, less so.

To be honest, right now, I’m bearing a grudge against spring from last year. Right now, spring as a time of beginnings is hard for me to buy into. Even before this project, I was rethinking spring. Throwing out everything I believed. Letting spring redefine itself. But I’m not going to have that answer for this post.

But the topic isn’t spring. It’s Signs of Spring. This isn’t unique to this time of year, but God does some good work. This time of year, life abounds. Vitality abounds. Beauty abounds. And it does so ephemerally. Enjoy the flowers today. They may be gone tomorrow.

What other artist creates such beauty so temporarily? But there’s a lesson there. Enjoy it. But enjoy it now. You may not be able to tomorrow. Which isn’t a hedonistic “carpe diem.” Not an “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you may die.” But rather this — pay attention. Today is unique. It’s the only today. Things will happen in it that won’t happen any other day. Things can be seen it that can be seen no other day. That doesn’t make today special. The same will be true of tomorrow. But each day you fail to do that is a day you’ll never get to.

Be aware. Pay attention. Look. Observe. Notice. Appreciate. Enjoy. This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Think About Music

This is the latest in my series of blog entries taking a fresh look at a variety of topics over the next year. I’ve set up a page on the blog explaining the project and linking to my entries. This week’s topic is “Singing.”

Nomad: What is the meaning?
Uhura: What?
Nomad: What form of communication?
Uhura: I don’t know what — Oh, my singing. I was singing.
Nomad: For what purpose is singing?
Uhura: I don’t know. I — I like to sing. I felt like music.
Nomad: What is music? Think about music.
Star Trek, “The Changeling (And I have to mention Information Society’s Come With Me here, which is how I know this exchange.)

For some reason, this topic has been one that I’ve really been looking forward to. But now that it’s here, I don’t know exactly what all I want to say about it. The assignment is limited specifically to singing; I would probably have a lot to say if it were about the broader area of music in general. Music is a big issue for me; I’m very aware of the soundtrack of my life at times, I can communicate in music at times, music and mood are very linked for me. The irony is that, in all the creative arts, music is the area in which I have the least ability. I have varying degrees of aptitude for the written, visual and performing arts, but I have negative talent for music. I suck musical talent out of people around me.

The cool thing is, I’ve come to realize over the last year what a gift that is.

That sign is so me, which I’ll get into in Part II of this post later in the week. I take the sign’s message to heart — I’m not the best bird, but I’m still going to sing.

But God did give me other talents. For example, He gave me a talent for improv. I’m good at making people laugh.

And that’s important to note. Because I used to believe I had no talent for singing. The problem was, I was failing to put it in the proper context.

These days, I get to perform. I get to sing in front of audiences. As an improv actor, my job is to make people laugh. And, when I sing at a show, I assure you, people laugh.

I once thought my singing was a lack of talent. But when I found what I really enjoy doing, I realized that it’s actually a skill for being good at something I love.

And that’s the best talent you could be gifted with.

Linkdump Number Whatever

Various and sundry links:

— Bill Watterson looks back on Calvin & Hobbes, in what is believed to be his first interview since 1989.

— I haven’t blogged anything about the iPad, but basically my three-word review is this: “Want; Don’t Need.” There are a handful of things about it that, were they different, might bump it up a few notches in the Dave-desirability spectrum. Among them, cameras, which apparently were considered. If that’s the case, it seems likely the next generation will include them. I just have to remind myself that waiting for the second generation doesn’t really mean waiting a year, it just means waiting nine months, since the first generation 3G models don’t ship for 90 days after the announcement. I do want to play with one, though.

— This isn’t a link, but in going through my archive of stuff to include in here, I’ve come across several articles I’ve saved about the NASA budget proposal. I just attended a meeting with Administrator Bolden, and came out of it feeling much more positive about the agency’s direction than I did before. That said, I’m not posting what I heard at the closed meeting publicly; if you know me, you’re welcome to ask me about it.

— I will post this NASA link, however. I saved an article in June 2008 to send to a friend, and never did, and it got lost in my e-mail and I just now rediscovered it. The original article doesn’t matter, just that the fact that it was about the Expendable Launch Vehicle Integrated Support contract, which is probably the coolest NASA acronym ever.

— Written by a five-year-old, drawn by his 29-year-old brother, it’s Axe Cop. A cop. With an axe.

— Yet another comic link, this one to

Let It Shine

That’s my picture for the 365project yesterday.

The first week made it seem easy. The project was just beginnning, so anything was an option. I could take a picture of going to the gym for the first time this year, or the first day at work this year, or the first hike of the year, or whatever. And then I went to Vegas and the Grand Canyon, and, really, didn’t have to work too terribly hard to find pictures to submit. (Well, there was that one day before I flew out, but, in general …)

But now I’m back, and settling into routine. And it’s becoming more work to find good pictures. And I struggle with the issue of representative pictures versus artistic pictures. Part of the point of the project for me is to document my year in photos; part of it is to work on my photography. So do I err on the side of finding a picture that captures that day when I look back, or do I err on the side of pushing my artistic capabilities. (Answer: Probably the former, since I’m better at it than the latter.)

Last night’s picture was taken after I got back from the movie. It was late; I was tired. I needed something to post, and had taken only one picture all day, and it really wasn’t 365project material. (Actually, it was for a blog post I’ll have to write soon.) So I played around and got that shot.

It’s not brilliant, but it will do.

One more day down. It’s gonna be a long year.