that night we hid from rain
under cover of a metal carport
lightning crackled overhead
and the warning drizzle became an onslaught
i only felt safe with you
it didn’t matter how long we hid
so long as we stayed together
your sense of adventure inspired me
your intractable desire to hunt
your constant presence at my side
to hell with the storm
for thinking it trapped us
we were never cornered
that parking lot belonged to us
we hunted across its asphalt expanse
exterminating the small things
locusts moths and lengths of string
property lines and contracts we did not recognize
agreements of strangers we did not recognize
we owned our hunting ground
for as long as we survived
hours passed beneath our metal canopy
before the clouds relented
we acknowledged their awesome power
no different from ours
forces of nature
embodiments of will
we gloried in the surrounding chaos
knowing we were its equals
i have never forgotten your eyes
your nearness at night
how you touched your face to mine
saying everything without language
but i have often wished
to live as you lived
to demand this earth obey me
and answer to my whim
to remain indomitable
when hope evaporated
to rule everything
—for Ellie Kitty, who loved to take me on walks at 3 a.m., whatever the weather.
My cat-o-lantern is carved on a 6-inch tall pumpkin and is based on a clip-art image I pulled from the web. The small size made it tricky, since even my smallest kitchen knife was too big to cut the tiny shapes. I went with an X-acto knife for cutting and a miniature screwdriver for scraping.
This drawing is based on a photograph of Ellie the Studio Cat. Ellie here is modeling for Tesla, the pirate radio DJ’s Siamese cat in the Meteor Mags series. The Psycho 78s album cover she is lying on needs to be finished, and then it can join the recent crop of drawings for the next set of stories in the series.
It’s been slow going on this drawing, not due to technical factors but emotional ones. Ellie disappeared last month on March 20. I’ve posted her on numerous websites and put up 150 flyers in the neighborhood, talked to many helpful folks in the area, and responded to dozens of phone calls about cat sightings. But no luck.
Ellie was my constant companion through life’s storms for the better part of six years. I miss her more than words can express.
I suppose that’s why we have art.
Instead of sketching this week, we devoted our sketch time to framing and listing several of our favorite pieces from the past year. It turns out to be quite a process: selecting and ordering frames, photographing each piece, and coming up with something compelling to say about them for the listing. Add to that unpacking, assembling, packing, and uploading, and you’ve suddenly got a pretty big project on your hands.
But, at the end, the final framed piece of art gives you a major feeling of satisfaction. You’ve taken an idea and made it real. In today’s world of goods and services performed virtually and delivered by email, we sometimes lose an important reward: that day you can step back, take a look at what you accomplished, and know it as a tangible thing.
Ellie the Studio Cat advised us that it was entirely too nice a day to be drawing inside, so the two of us chilled at the little picnic table outside sketching prehistoric animals. We’re doing some very rough studies to get a feel for rendering these ancient critters with a combination of Sharpie and fine-point pens.
And yes, Ellie does look like she’s scowling in this photo, but she is just relaxing, contentedly hanging out for sunshine and sketching.
Anyway! Trilobites seemed like they would be simple, but their unique anatomy presents some conceptual challenges. Since this sketch we found some more photo references from the Burgess Shale that depict a few different types of trilobites with anatomical variations. We will master the trilobite yet!
Rod Ruth has a pencil drawing in Album of Prehistoric Animals that makes a great reference for Diatryma feathers and anatomy. This was the easiest one of the bunch to pin down where we would want fine lines versus bold chisel-tip inking.
Smilodon smiles on, with Rod Ruth’s cover of the same book giving a perfect snarly pose to work from.
The skull of Dunkleosteus appears in one of our favorite books, Extinction. The interesting plate structure of this placoderm’s head easily lent itself to bold black lines.
An Archaeocyathid from the same book was rendered in ink by one of the contributing artists, so we studied the way light and shadow define the curves.
Here is our first rough pencil study of a panel by Bob Powell with a whacky sci-fi wasp from another planet who comes to earth in a globe of pure force. The sketch isn’t so great, but this is how we get to know our subjects.
Our previous posting of Somewhere Between Mars and Earth got some encouraging response. We returned to it and filled in the lower right corner with more mega-doodle madness. Framed, it looks pretty darn trippy.
Our first Sharpie study of And One of Them Was Destroyed felt good enough that we want to do a more finished version on some high-quality artist paper. While we get materials together for that endeavor, our two-page sketch can enjoy this 12×18 frame!
Last but not least, we framed our little frog from our book of watercolor paper postcards. It will list on eBay soon, and we will be picking up another book of those blank postcards. In the next round, though, we will take care to leave a border around the edges. Frog looks great, but another one of our cards really needs to be matted to a 5×7 frame to preserve the details at the edges. Live and learn! UPDATE: Diving Frog sold on eBay to an overseas buyer. Rock on!
sharpie marker on cardboard (24×8)
An art magazine arrived in the Martian Mailbox with this full page ad (below) featuring paintings by Michael Reafsnyder. Since we don’t yet have the space to produce large-scale abstract expressionist canvases like this, we just drew one. Thus, imaginary studio. Besides gigantic canvases full of splashy splattery modern art, our imaginary studio also contains Ellie the studio cat, random sculptures, and a giant work-in-progress of the Silver Surfer zooming in front of a sun.
Ellie the studio cat cares less about what goes on the canvases than about how fun it is to make cat forts out of them.
In other news, Ellie the studio cat enjoys her fan mail.
Okay, she doesn’t really enjoy it the same way we might, but paper is paper. You can lay on it. To cats, that’s pretty important. Ellie especially prefers brown packing paper. She will happily sprawl on any fan mail you send her on crunchy paper.
Even after 12 quarters, we still receive inquiries into the nature of the cryptic phrase ‘mars will send no more.’ A page dedicated to our secret origin illuminates all.
But in another sense, Mars is our virtual garden. Or maybe a plant in our garden, grown from a digital seed. We tend it, trim it, prune it, feed it, groom it, give it love, and even worry that someday Mike Baron is going to show up and make us take down the whole thing, since he invented the phrase. It’s scary, sometimes: having a little digital pet that someone could just turn off at any time.
Blogging is like writing a book you can never touch. Paper burns, but what do pixels do? Where is the page when you turn off your machine? When we were kids, we read books about magic. When we became adults, we lived in an electric world made of it.
And you know what? We love it. Why do 7000 people drop by every month to look at 7 or 8 pages in the Martian Archives? We don’t know. We do get a kick out of being referred to by such notable sources as The Atlantic, who referenced our scans of America’s most famous comic book: The safety instructions found on every airplane! Interestingly, they don’t reference the exact post. Instead, they use a URL for our tag archives for the word airplane: https://marswillsendnomore.wordpress.com/tag/airplane/
What if we posted something new tagged with airplane? It wouldn’t matter what the post was really about, as long as it had a tag for airplane. We could post propaganda for the Martian Underground Resistance, in hopes that the Atlantic’s readers will someday join the revolution. Or, we could just leave them a greeting card with a cute cat and a cozy scarf on it.
LONG LIVE THE MARTIAN RESISTANCE!
MOUNTAIN LIONS FOREVER!
Ellie doesn’t care that today is sort of her birthday. And really, she wouldn’t care even if we got the date right. That’s just how cats are. We envy and emulate her ability to live in the moment free from cultural expectations and rituals. When you think like a cat, any day is just as special as any other. No one day in the solar cycle represents more of an opportunity than any other for love and affection, for bonding and relaxing, or for just zipping about the yard scratching trees.
This is her too-cute-for-words picture from the Humane Society ad. It seems she had been there before. Someone adopted her but then brought her back. Poor little Ellie. She even had multiple names. Anyway, we met her, she rubbed her face on our hands, looked at us with her big blue eyes… Its been love ever since.
I never met Andy Bach, but I dig his tiger. Acrylic on some sort of art paper, it measures 17.5 x 23 inches. Andy painted the tiger in fifth grade. Since I bought it in 2009 or 2010, he should be wrapping up junior high about now.
Most visitors to the Martian Headquarters assume I painted the tiger, but no. I bought it. The Alwun House Foundation hosts Salon des Enfants, an annual children’s art show in partnership with local schools. The galleries in the first story of the house display visual art. Children perform music and dance on the stage in the back yard, entertaining a huge crowd of parents and community. All the money from the art sales goes directly to the kids. Andy’s big red tiger cost me $20. I always wonder what he did with the cash!
Pastel and ink on toned tan paper.
Our model lion is 79 years old now. We used his picture from the 1934 Chicago Daily News, shown below. Jimmy, they called him.
“Jimmy” got ruined by over-aggressive spraying of sealant, so we reworked him. We kind of like the second version better, below.
Pastel and charcoal on toned tan paper.
Afternoons are the best time to catch her napping. This drawing encountered a little problem. It had a lot of white highlights – until we sprayed it with a matte varnish. For not the first time we noticed that the spray made all the white charcoal seemingly disappear. Why does that happen? After the spray dried, we went over it all again in white, and reworked some of the grey areas too. We had the same problem on our rendering of lightning, which fortunately got scanned before the evil spray varnish un-whited it. We reworked that one today, too. Spraying both pieces a second time now left plenty of white showing through the varnish.
We tried a bunch of new stuff recently, and our mutant brains are still reeling from the impact.
Palette Knives – The plastic ones with level planes and multiple cutting edges turned out to be a LOT of fun. Finally, we can get some of the surface effects we admire in other abstracts. While the plastic ones are fun for experimentation, we can easily imagine buying a few more durable metal versions of our favorite shapes.
Red Gesso – This was fun even if we didnt really use it for its intended purpose each time. Buying more of it depends on the price. If it is cheaper than a comparable color of paint, we would consider buying it.
Clear Tar Gel – We can see how this is used in some modern art, now, for poured effects and so on. But we didnt like working with it. Paint doesnt seem to adhere to it dependably – which is part of the appeal, presumably, if your technique involves removing some paint from an upper layer to reveal the under layers. But we are more concerned with building up textures, which is why we much preferred the next thing:
Texture Paste – Texture paste, fuck yeah! While it doesn’t seem to go very far, this is a perfect substance for getting some really interesting surfaces for color washes and abstracts. We’ve gotten close with other materials but this one just seemed made for the job. We will be working with more of this.
Pumice Gel – We only used it once and we may not be calling it the right thing – but it was fun. What we used seemed about the consistency of texture paste but with grit. Anything that makes surfaces more complex for our abstracts is generally a “yes!” We especially like the way it made washes more texturally dynamic.
Iridescent Medium – Fun stuff. If you mix this with your paint, the dried result takes on the lustre of a pearl. It lives somewhere between ‘metallic’ and ‘glittery.’ We really dig the look, but arent sure what to do with it yet.
Retarder – This additive birthed a revelation: sometimes paint is better when it is retarded. It takes longer to dry and stays supple longer for brushing and washing. The right dose of retarder also gives it a more fluid consistency for smooth, fine brush work. Though we like that acrylics dry fast and you can get right to work on the next layer, sometimes they dry too fast to blend values or create surface effects.
Open Acrylics – Open acrylics take longer to dry, just like retarded ones. But they do it without any additive. Several times their longer open time proved to be just what we needed – for large surfaces and/or blending colors. On the other hand, they can be a drag when you have to wait for what seems like two hours before going back to a canvas with multiple washes. You think it’s safe to spray on some water and get to work – but then your last layer begins to “open” back up and bleed. Oops. Golden’s open acrylics may be some of the best colors we’ve yet seen come out of a paint tube, but sometimes you wish they would just dry. While we are going to work a lot more with these beautiful paints, we suspect the perfect solution would be getting colors of this caliber in a regular form, and adding retarder when we need more open time.