Talking Bout This Generation 

A popular meme depicting T1’s generation as iPhone-addicted idiots found its way into my Facebook feed tonight among the countless photos of his peers peacefully marching and calling for an end to violence.  

 I’m a member of the generation that, defined by John Hughes movies and political disengagement, came of age with the MTV and PacMan. At our high school most of the focus for seniors was on the goals that would improve our own lives. 

By contrast, this generation of high school seniors has engaged with the world (and they did inspire people around the world), starting the work towards their vision of a more positive future for their peers but also for the kids who will follow. They are indeed fixated, but technology seems to be the conduit for their passions, not the objects of it.

Remembering that the idea for the march was instigated by teenagers, it occurred to me that while my generation has been deriding the attention they lavish on smartphones and tablets, T1’s generation may have been using them to acquire and share ideas and make loftier plans than anyone has given them credit for. 

Thanks to T1 and his girlfriend (thinking SuperGal will be her secret identity since she has demonstrated some superpowers which are fodder for future posts), I do hear about kids making plans for futures defined by civic engagement, so when I see memes mocking their cohort, I tend to roll my eyes. It’s not enough, though, to just ignore an inaccurate stereotype. Today’s marches made me rethink how I should be talking about this generation, beginning with talking about and to them with respect .

Progressions

A Winters Nap

Learning to draw on the iPad has been easier than I thought. It’s just different sensation from drawing on paper but no more different a sensation than painting.
I spent the first few weeks experimenting with the first page of a book I’ve been working on over the last six months. I still sense this new tool will ultimately speed up my workflow, but as I tried different variations, I’ve noticed an unpleasant quirk creeping back into my work.

In the past, whenever my creativity has felt stunted as it was during a very busy autumn, I’ve gone back to basics — a pocket sketchbook and a black pen. The pocket sketchbook reminds me that The only pressure is to get something down on the page. Indelible, ink ensures that corrections are impossible. Mistakes will happen, and the only thing you can do is to move forward. Freeing oneself from any expectation of perfection is like prying the lid off a mason jar filled with fireflies that have been waiting to get out all night. Suddenly you’re in the darkness. The results are irregular and uncontrolled and surprisingly beautiful.

Drawing on the iPad lets you correct mistakes; it lets you anticipate and try to prevent them. Being able to create images with a different layer for every section means being able to edit one section without accidentally disrupting another. It’s a wonderful safety net when digitizing a final version of a rough draft, but it does take some planning. 

That detail is where the devil lurks. You focus on the final image, but instead of letting it flow organically, it’s easy to get caught up in figuring out the steps through the maze and even easier to begin worrying if the image is good enough. Could it be better if you removed this layer and replaced it with that?

I didn’t realize I’ve been doing just that until the second day of my kick starter when I wanted to copy a photo of Thing2 snuggled up with Jim-Bob. Deciding that tracing the photo would be too constricting because of changes I wanted to make, I started a rough sketch with the pencil tool. This is the point in my sketchbook, where I get lost in my subject. On the iPad, however, I was thinking about how I would do the next layer and what style it should be. As I began focusing on potential mistakes instead of just creating, my devilish inner critic stirred, and the firefly light flickered.

I started the second layer, determined to focus on progress, not perfection. The result was something new for me along with the recognition that discovering when not to use each tool in your art kit can the most important thing you’ll learn.

A Tale of Country Kitties

One of the facts of country life is that other critters live in the woods with your pets. Snoop, our fat black feline god of pleasure found out in August that fishers weren’t as easy to escape as bears, and we saw him no more.

We all mourned him – especially Thing2 who spends more time on the floor with the animals than anyone else in the family.

The house mice tried to feign sympathy, but there was no mourning period in the nooks and crannies behind the walls. We knew we needed a new mouser.

Thing1’s girlfriend’s (yes you read that right) family owns a few barn cats who, in addition to being excellent mousers were prolific breeders this summer. So a few Saturday ago after I got off work, we decided to see if any of the kittens could be coaxed into the slothful life of a housecat.

We had two semi-willing takers (bribed with a bit of catnip) and named them Lady Jane (because she was so grey and seemingly dainty) and Gentleman Jim who seems more like Jim-Bob now.

We got them home and Jim-Bob promptly swatted Katy-the-Wondering-Dog’s nose, confirming her opinion that cats are freaking crazy and making us wonder if a barn cat could be happy as a housecat.

It took them less than an hour to convert.

Jim-Bob unlocked the age-old wisdom of cats that tells them that humans are bad hunters but excellent servants and sampled every lap and couch. Jane — not sure if she or Katy would be the bigger wimp — held back a bit, waiting until bedtime to snuggle up with the human of her choice (Thing2 in this case).

There’s something magical about an animal that can live in the wild but still prefers to occupy the laps of very unmagical humans. I don’t know if it was magic or just the vibration from the purring, but it didn’t take us more than an hour to realize how much we had missed having cats, even if only for a month or two.

Recess

It’s December, and school is out. I have homework over the break, and work never stops. Still, this is close to recess as I normally get. And recess is time to play.

I used some of my December bonus to buy an iPad Pro and a pencil, thinking it might be faster to trace illustrations and to scan them in and clean them up in Photoshop. In the long run, it will probably be faster. In the short term, however, it is been an excuse to play just for the sake of playing. I have generated five or 10 iterations of the first page of my book, not making any progress and yet, making tons of it.

After three months where every moment of my life was defined by functionality, sometimes being able to make art just for the sake of art is progress.