Tuesday, June 19, 2012

If you can't paint them, paint with them

News of the weird from a country I once knew, or thought I knew:

(06-18) 04:31 PDT BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) --
An episode of "Thailand's Got Talent" has stirred a morality debate after a contestant painted a canvas using her bare breasts, drawing a rebuke from the culture minister who called it "very shocking."

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2012/06/17/international/i232829D44.DTL#ixzz1yE28ZreR

On an unrelated note, I've been cataloging drawerings from the last year-ish, and there should be some up here soon. Until then, here are a couple I did on a camping trip last weekend. No Thai technique used.

Krish on guitar

Amir on Kindle

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

High Resolution Resolutions

Where did the year go, as they say.

It went to San Francisco and stayed, that's where.

Congratulations to me! I made it back here, found 2-3 years of job security, and found some footing again.

But that's old news. Almost ten months old, in fact. Woo hoo! My name is Justina ("Hi, Justina") and I've been New York-free for ten months.

A few people have been asking what happened to my drawerings. The bigger answer is that I haven't posted any since I've been in San Francisco. But I've been drawing, so never fear.

Maybe fear a little. I've been drawing less consistently. I just haven't quite found the same community of dabbling arteests I had back east.

That is the only thing you'll ever hear me say was better back east.

The smaller answer (to what happened to my drawerings - remember the question?) is that it might be another few weeks or so before I post the backlog. Someone broke into our apartment in December and took my camera and laptop, the two things I used to post drawerings. I have a hard drive backup, but it only captured up to last July. The drawerings I've done since then need to be re-photographed for uploading to this blog.

Now is where you ask why I don't use a scanner.

Lessons learned from being robbed: Back up computer more than every six months. Also don't forget to close the window when you live on the first floor. We're about 10 feet off the ground, but thieving people climb things.

Every year I make very wholesome, very abstract New Years resolutions. Every year they're about the same. Stuff like finding contentment, honoring intuition, and seeking out people who are happy with themselves and share a loving, generous energy with the world around them. Blah blah blah. Seemingly simple, yet elusive.

Except for last year, when one of my resolutions was to blow that shite-hole town and make my way back here.

Hooray! Determination won the day in 2011.

And now, a few drawerings brought to you by last June 14.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

My Bic Rollerball and Me

Wow, I was packing up some really really old sketchbooks for my move and came across these drawerings, circa 2003 to 2005.

I seem to remember being underemployed with lots of free time back then, exploring San Francisco on my bike. It was moments of contentment and discovery among sustained periods of anxiety and existential dread. There could have been worse ways to spend my late 20s.

Only one painted lady makes it to the finish. Alamo Square Park.

Botanical Gardens, Golden Gate Park.

The backyard of my Lincoln Way pad.

I feel like the sun may have set, cutting short this drawing session. Palace of Fine Arts.

Friday, May 27, 2011

From Here, San Francisco

Hello fans. I'm now writing you from the other coast - the one I like better.

The last two months have been a whirlwind of shifting from east to west, from frenzied to calm, from nastiness to kindness. Learning how to believe in a humanity that is inherently good again. Remembering that I once trusted strangers on the street not to attack me, a projection of their misery onto something they sensed was good and pure so they could feel for one fleeting moment that their lonely human condition was less painful. Rediscovering that in this place I've returned to, it's safe to trust again.

"Let's blow this shit hole town," I said almost four years ago. My luggage was barely unpacked, a few unstylish outfits from REI unfolding themselves onto the floor of my still-empty apartment in New York City.

I had left San Francisco to see things, do things and find things, first in Kenyan villages, then in grad school. I had left San Francisco knowing I wanted to come back, but not anticipating how many terrible people would try to keep me away.

African vistas led me back to the US with a detour on the east coast. I had things to do in New York, a degree to finish, massive student loan debt to rack up. I cried for San Francisco more than once during that time. I wanted to go home in a way that I never knew before, a deep sadness and longing with a clear antidote. Getting back to San Francisco became an epic, elusive dream that I planted and watered in my soul, a tragedy of the present that I was determined to end happily ever after. I made a plan, and I kept it in Excel. It became an obsession. And a slightly sore point among my New York friends who wanted me to be happy but didn't want me to leave.

It's okay. They didn't know that San Francisco is still the greatest love affair of my life. And like all great love affairs, it will never end, no matter how far away I go or how long I'm gone. These years away haven't diminished the brightness in the universe that lights my soul from a place called home. I can always return and I'll be welcomed unconditionally, forgiven for taking home for granted. I live life with joy and gratitude and deep breaths.

Your love
Should never be offered to the mouth of a
Only to someone
Who has the valor and daring
To cut pieces of their soul off with a knife
Then weave them into a blanket
To protect you.

- Hafiz of Shiraz

I've been away from the charcoal for awhile and I'm still looking for a new studio, so no new drawerings to report. Here's the last of the Brooklyn collection.

He had quite an impressive body of fur.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Subway Spyglass

I recently tried one of the oldest tricks in the sketchbook: drawing people on the subway. One guy was featured in the New York Times and on NPR for his ambitious goal of drawing every person in New York.

As most of my lovely readers know, I might have a slightly negative perception of New Yorkers, so I approach this activity with the sense that New York is perhaps not the most hospitable environment for drawing random fellow passengers. I've seen too many people assuming the worst of a perfectly well-meaning stranger, so it makes me a bit nervous to be a perfectly well-meaning stranger. But there's always the thrill of getting away with it.

One woman told me she's been drawing people on the subway for ten years. She says most people think it's pretty cool when they catch her drawing them. They like to see what you've made of them, she says. Kids especially love it. And generally people are so fixated on whatever device they're tapping on or reading, or they're plain conked out asleep, that they don't notice the spy with the sketchbook.

Recently she said she was getting off the train near her house when another woman started yelling at her about how it was a violation of people's privacy and you can't go around doing things like that and how dare you think it's okay. So, that's New York.

And I'm turning into a regular criminal here.

Riding the 4-5 express

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Mending Bridges

It takes a big man to reach across crumbled planks and say, I was wrong, I'm sorry.

To say, look here, I brought a hammer and nails, a few boards I found behind the garage. I should have done this a long time ago, the first day we met. But at least starting from now you'll be able to walk from that bank there to this bank here, no matter where you are. I promised I would do this from the beginning. But the truth is, I'm not a person who nails down fresh planks. I'm the person who plants dynamite under the span at night. I'm the person who doesn't understand why the next day everyone climbs into the other guy's boat instead of scrambling across the remains of the bridge I just blew up. After all, you can still walk part way across the river before you have to turn around.

Until today, I had a box of matches in my pocket, ready to light up that battered bridge.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Blood dries up
Like rain, like rain
Fills my cup
Like four seasons in one day

- Crowded House

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Scent of Imperfection

For now there was nothing for her to gain by watching him nap. His infrequent smile made her stomach collapse into itself for having glimpsed something so honest and beautiful. That alone kept her poking her head back in to see if he might start to wake up. At most he sleepwalked.

It crushed her a little bit each time, but who has control over what they love, or whom?

One of my favorites

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

From No to Yes

Just because you call me that, am I that?  -Buddha

Actually that's Robin Williams quoting Buddha during a recent interview about his role in the new Broadway show Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo. A quick Google search doesn't turn up any such quote attributed to Buddha, but it sounds like something he'd say.

[Crankypants rant deleted]

"We are described into corners, and then we must describe ourselves out of corners."
— Salman Rushdie

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I like to play the drums.
I think I'm getting good,
But I can handle criticism.
I'll show you what I know,
And you can tell me if you think I'm getting better on the drums.

-They Might Be Giants

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Drawering Hands

I am embarrassed to admit that I like Deepak Chopra. He is New Age self-help for the couch potato masses. Chopra rhymes with Oprah, and Chopra is the Oprah of mind-body healing arts, running his not insubstantial spirituality empire from (where else) southern California.

Ch-Oprah teaches meditation using simple, practical concepts. This works for me. I get it when Ch-Oprah explains how my intentions have infinite organizing power using examples a 5-year-old can understand.

I like to think I prefer more poetry, more cynicism, anger and redemption, more scathing criticism, more unbridled joy in fleeting brushes with the beautiful, more longing and mystery in my deepening acquaintance with Eastern spiritual thought.

I want a love affair. Deepak Ch-Oprah offers kindergarten set to waterfalls and wind chimes. You can almost miss the cheese, especially if you don't look at his bio pic.

I let go of resistance and accept this moment exactly as it is. 
     - February, Chopra Center 2011 Mantra Calendar

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Snowing Buckets

There has been this obnoxious intermittent drumming behind my building for the last half hour or so. It has been driving me crazy. Nearly 1am and 27 degrees, and some idiot is out in the street banging on an overturned bucket like he thinks he's a subway musician. Not even any good rhythms, either. Just this moronic drumroll, every minute or so.

I had my phone in hand, ready to speed dial the police, who might remember me from last summer when I kept calling about other idiotic neighbors who'd forget on a nightly basis how to disarm their car alarms, usually starting at midnight and lasting until 3am.

I decided to poke my head through my curtains to see if I could pinpoint exactly where the bucket drumroll was coming from. I wanted to make sure the cops knew exactly where they could nab this bugger.

Instead, I saw this.

And I laughed, first because it wasn't a bucket but a bucket loader that was making all that noise. And then because the truck oddly reminds me of those four-legged AT-AT walkers from the Battle of Hoth in the Empire Strikes Back. There is something very anthropomorphic in the way it shakes the bucket to get all the snow out.

When Allah gives you the strength to laugh, then Mamma, you will survive all things. - Baba Abdullah, "Abdullah and Miriam" (Maria Thomas)

And now onto the drawerings.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Where New York City Winters Aren't Bleeding Me

I ran out of places and friendly faces because I had to be free...
I took the sweet life, I never knew I'd be bitter from the sweet
I've spent my life exploring the subtle whoring that costs too much to be free
Hey lady
I've been to paradise but I've never been to me


I turned down several attractive plans last night to go to my usual Monday night drawering studio, only to be deterred by a possibly imaginary fever and an impossibly undeniable sleep.

So I'm posting some drawings from the archives, one of which made it to my Kenya blog back in the day, the others of which should have but apparently didn't.

Yes, I do need to get a scanner.

Scenes from a train. Elburgon, Kenya, 7/21/2006.

Crashing with the Kivindyos, my Kenyan homestay family. Kitui, Kenya, 6/1/2005.

Site visit to my future home for a year in Kobujoi, Kenya, 7/13/2005

Jomo Kenyatta Fairgrounds, Kisumu, Kenya, 11/29/2005.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

In you the rivers sing and my soul flees in them
as you desire, and you send it where you will.
Aim my road on your bow of hope
and in a frenzy I will free my flock of arrows.

    - Pablo Neruda, "Ah Vastness of Pines"

My friend Joyce introduced me to Neruda more than five years ago, and I finally sat down with a thin volune of his love poems (and one song of despair) on the subway this morning.

Reading Neruda is like having someone tar and feather you but with rose petals and nectar, then roll you over the edge of a cliff because they want to show you how the sun sets in the most beautiful valley they've ever seen, and as you're appreciating this breathtaking light show on the western horizon, you're also in a screaming free fall towards an uncertain fate, until you land on a bed of cacti and every needle pierces you with an intense pain that you recognize as beauty and truth accosting your soul, and despite being so intoxicated by the ambrosia of your rose petal garment and the plummeting spill you just took, you know that everything that has ever permeated your senses this profoundly is proof that you are deeply alive, thanks to being told a bunch of old secrets left to the world by a dead Chilean poet.