Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sketchbook Sunday - is there an app for that?

Over waffles and child shenanigans Saturday morning, Jim Dear showed me a story in the paper about the Borders Books on West End closing. Unlike Davis Kidd, which was always there, I remember clearly the birth of the West End Borders. Jim Dear and I had just gotten married and felt lucky to be renting a house in the artsy enclave of Hillsboro Village. We jealously guarded our ability to walk to everything and waited anxiously for the opening of Borders.... how wonderful to have a bookstore we could stroll to on a Friday evening! Over the years we spent Friday nights at Borders and Sunday afternoons at Davis Kidd.

The word on the street is that Borders took too late to the online retail environment. And it's true, as part of their brand, Borders believed in the in-store experience - they were the first to have a cafe, the first to offer wireless internet. But even the hippest coffee and the tastiest muffins could not compete with the double punch of ebooks and people preferring to shop from their La-Z-boys.

Sigh.... technology

I'm not a crusader against technology in publishing. I AM a book lover and therefor don't see an ebook reader in my near future, but I do think that e-readers fill a niche in the market place for people who can muster the energy only to thumb "next page." These individuals, unable to summon the strength to crack a paperback let alone balance a 200 page novel beside their smart phones and remote controls, are truly sympathetic creatures. Aside from the obvious deterioration of upper body strength I would be concerned about how this technology, which is galloping closer to the under 5 set, impacts a person's ability to understand the natural world. Wonder why? Consider this: when an 18 month old sees mom's hand grab a page, move it through the air and then allow it to fall slowly into another place he sees a physics lesson in motion. When a 5 year old drops a paperback and board book on his sisters head and hears the different thunks they make, he learns another. So what? He can learn the same lesson from his toys, right? True, unless his toys are replaced.... one by one.... with electronic gadgets and apps. A recent acquaintance, whose youthful parents were raised on a steady diet of TV and video games, and who are making sure to bring only the best binary code to their child, visited our neighborhood and remarked on the rocks in our back field.
"Wow! where did those come from?"
"Well," was the reply, "they were dug up when the neighborhood was built."
"Cool! so you could just dig one out and roll it down there?"


The rocks in question are 800 pound boulders that can't be moved unless you had a crane to do it. Now commentary of this nature could be understandable coming from a three year old. But this person is older than that, and certainly old enough to have experienced an actual rock. However just like Borders' "customers" this person has eschewed the "in-world experience" for a virtual life.... and at the same time has forfeited the knowledge that a boulder the size of a VW is not something you casually rearrange in the landscaping. This is the same mentality as that of people who build enormous million dollar houses in the wilderness and then get annoyed when bears and wild fires show up without a casserole. When we are clumsy with it, technology steals more of the natural world from us. My concern is that, as the generations pass, Baby Sprout is going to be on a date with some bozo who thinks that he can pull the car just a little too close to the edge of Make-out Lookout and not put the emergency break on. If the car starts rockin' and the wheels start rolling and the car starts sliding.... I don't think there's an app to stop that.

So after doing the above sketch - and the commentary along with it - my protective instincts are on high. So I'll share this one: For several years, since following a toddler Fry around the playground, I have thought of how mamas and babies in the animal kingdom are an awful dang lot like us. The majority of my hands-on animal experience is with that of the equine persuasion. Many summers I would watch mares follow their offspring galavanting around the pasture with an exasperated tilt to their ears. One minute baby is settled down in the grass and mom can graze, the next second he's off to climb on the big kid monkey bars.... er I mean... well you know what I mean. Anyway I like drawing horses and don't get to draw them near enough, here's mom and baby in a mid-afternoon pose:

Finally a couple of work related sketches. I've been working for a client doing some illos in the style of the 1930's WPA travel posters. While I can't post them yet, I'm very happy with how they turned out and have actually thought about doing some more just for the heck of it. What I love about the WPA style is it totally ignores the details except where highlight and shadow matter. It's terrificly freeing since I can get bogged down in details on my other work. So here's a sketch a I did for St. Louis:

And last but not least, in the ongoing portfolio makeover, we have a small superhero, who has climbed to the tallest building ever and is ready to mount an attack on All The Evil In the World with his sidekick, Teddy, and Super-duper Special Power Jet Rocket Airplane:

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