Point of Exquisite Suspension

Thoughts & life experiences of a Chicago area graphic artist

13 August 2017

Monument against War and Fascism, Vienna, Austria.

During our recent trip to the wonderful city of Vienna, Austria, our hosts solemnly took us to a stunning monument at the city center, behind the opera house and in front of the celebrated Albertina Museum of Art (which houses remarkable art by Albrect Durer, among other treasures).

The Monument against War and Fascism contained sculptures that were jarring. As you read the plaque and see the unique art of granite and marble depictions of the inhumanity suffered by the people of Europe under the boot heel of and war-mongering totalitarian government, you'll see why it is a clear warning to future democracies who think Fascistic leaders seem desirable.


Text on the plaque at the
Monument against War and Fascism

Alfred Hrdlicka (1928-2009)

Granite, marble, sandstone, bronze

“This was once the site of Philipp-Hof, an imposing apartment block built during the prosperous final quarter of the 19th century. It was destroyed in an air-raid on March 12th 1945. Hundreds died who had sought refuge in its cellar. The exact number of dead has never been verified as bodies could not be recovered from the rubble. For this reason, it was deemed during the commemorative year of 1988, to be an appropriate site for the City of Vienna to place a Monument against War and Fascism. The Austrian sculptor Alfred Hrdlicka was given the commission for its concept and execution.

The Gate of Violence stands at the front of the square: It is constructed from Mauthausen granite, identical to the stone that thousands of prisons were forced to carry up the Steps of Death at Mauthausen Concentration Camp.”

Photos © by O. Douglas Jennings. All Rights Reserved.

12 August 2017

Cartooning Class Comic Page Demo

This Cartooning Class Comic Page Demonstration was part of a unit on basic story layout and tips for depicting an action scene.

The step-by-step demonstration began with giving students the choice of what characters to use in the plot and what action sequence to tell visually.

Students then followed along on their own art as we pencil-sketched the art/layout before pencilling the lettering and then using Sharpie markers for inks. 

After the inking of the art was finished we erased the pencil lines to reveal the crisp black final art on the white paper.

See other demos and scenes from our class on my instagram:

Students also worked on their own projects. It was a good week.

06 August 2017

Rest Stop...

So...This crow was just chillin' 😎 on our birdbath for nearly an hour while we would occasionally glance outside from our kitchen patio door windows. I began to worry that it might be sick. I walked into the patio and it flew away without any trouble. Made me wonder if it was just enjoying it's time... and how long would it have stayed if uninterrupted?

UPDATE: Apparently the crow came back later in the afternoon (I'm assuming it was the same crow). This time it roosted in the grass near the birdbath. It stayed well past sunset. My daughter noticed the bird and we did searches online about what to do if we encountered a sick bird. The best advice, I feel, was to call a local animal rescue facility. The nearest one we could find was closed. Then, mysteriously, after we were deliberating what to do and discussing how healthy crows would normally not stay out after dark but join other crows in a communal roosting area, we looked and our feathered friend was gone. I even went outside in the dark to see if I could find him but did not see him anywhere my the yard or surrounding yards.

I take some comfort that he chose my yard as a safe resting place for a while. I can only hope that he eventually made his way back to his group.

Later in the afternoon, our crow friend returned. Occasionally it would preen and move a little ways from this spot shown in the photo. He stayed well past sunset.

15 July 2017

Mindful Spacetime

Our tiny side garden is an inviting space.
During the Summer, the coneflowers, daisies and
black-eyed susans thrive!
Bordered by the walkway to the backyard,
the little flower garden occupies a small space.

It has come to occupy not only a place in
our yard but in our minds.

 We have a little garden on the side of our home between the house and the walk way leading to our back yard. At one time we called it our "experimental garden" where we planted starter saplings or shrubs that we ended up moving to other places in the yard.

But two years ago, we added a little bird bath (a larger one is in the back yard under a tall maple tree). The little bird bath in our side garden would sometimes be used by Cardinal birds that wanted more privacy than the backyard one afforded.

Earlier this Spring we added a little bench to our side garden along with some decorative ceramic birds. I have sat on the bench and enjoyed the flowers in the garden. But the thing I enjoy the most of our tiny paradise is the IDEA of it. It occupies a greater status in my imagination than in the physical world, if you want to know the truth. It's like a work of conceptual art. I love seeing the inviting bench placed near the refreshing water in the midst of verdant green leaves, daisies, coneflowers and black-eyed susans. Just THINKING about it helps me to feel serene, at home and welcome.

If you read this and look at my photos of our garden (if you click on the above pics, you can see larger versions), then they will occupy space in your mind and imagination as well.

That's a funny thing about reality, I think. It's that reality is made of spaces, and times and ideas. All of those things are vital components of the entire scheme. We often might hear or read about how Space and Time were joined conceptually by physicists to be one entity: Spacetime.

Will scientists one day upgrade the concept further to be called "Mindspacetime"?
I think they should.

10 July 2017

Starting a New Collection!

I picked up a vintage Aquaman Action figure at a garage sale last weekend. I now have a collection of two!

As I've written about in a previous post, I have some special history with the Sea King. 

In another post, I mention some distinctive qualities I admire in the Ruler of the Seven Seas.

Another post has one of my sketchbook drawings of the Underwater Prince featured on my Flickr site.

And there's a little post I made about the Justice League in general (after viewing "Justice League:War" in which Aquaman had not yet been introduced).

A close-up of my first Aquaman figure that is part of a set of figures that came with a DC Super Friends Busy Book. Photo © O. Douglas Jennings

21 June 2017

Ken Doll As Cultural Bell Weather

The latest product offering from the Barbie toy line is the release of an expanded availability of Ken dolls that is most likely the most diverse selection ever. Last year's diverse Barbie doll collection boosted sales for toy company Mattel. So you can't blame them for trying this latest roll out. No real analysis here. Just check out the following news videos.

 The last time I recall such a stir in Barbie/Ken toy news was back in the 90s, when my daughters were children. Mattel offered a Ken doll with one earring and fishnet shirt. And that lavender, leather vest!

And a Chicago Tribune writer asks a common but often unspoken question:

Ken doll gets a man bun but still no private parts?

14 June 2017

Acclaimed Graphic Novelist, Emil Ferris: “Always dream and believe in your dream.”

A conversation with Emil Ferris, Graphic Novelist of "My Favorite Thing is Monsters", hosted by Christopher Borrelli at the Chicago Tribune's Printer's Row Literature Festival 2017. Photo © by O. Douglas Jennings

It’s become a tradition for me and my sister Alicia (who is a high school librarian) to attend the annual Printer’s Row Literature Festival in Chicago. I was excited that an artist/author whose book I had recently read would be interviewed this year.

Emil Ferris wrote and illustrated the phenomenal graphic novel My Favorite Thing is Monsters. A combination coming of age story and murder mystery that takes place in 1968 Chicago. Ferris’s drawings are exquisitely cross-hatched and intricate. Printed with soft-cover binding made to look like a school notebook, the hefty tome is a delight to read, view, peruse and savor as the compelling story unfolds.

Like her semi-autobiographical main character, Karen, Ferris grew up in Chicago and currently lives in Evanston, Illinois. She appeared at the Lit Fest on Saturday for a scheduled conversation with Chicago Tribune’s Christopher Borrelli.

The author/artist was dressed all in black with a broad-rimmed, black hat accented by a gold-colored pendant. She explained her hat helps protect her eyes which, due in part to her hours of fine-line crosshatch drawing, are painfully sensitive to neon ceiling lights.

Most of the 30 or so attendees (all ages) to the conversation held in a classroom at Jones College Prep School had read the book (or were in process of reading it). Mr. Borrelli often would hold up an open spread to refer to specific pages from the book which depicted numerous Chicago landmarks, including the Art Institute and some of it’s paintings.

Ms. Ferris described the process of writing as “making rope bridges into suspension bridges” and spoke of her youth in Chicago visiting the Art Institute, Hull House and the city’s historic cemeteries. Her mother was a fine artist and her father, designed toys and games (“Simon” is one that he’s credited with creating). She added, “Dad was a comic book guy”. In fact, in response to a question by host Borrelli, she admitted that as she grew up, she sensed some tension between her mother’s “high art” in the classical tradition, and her father’s more pop-culture “low art” appreciation of toys and comics.

Telling of her childhood fraught with physical disabilities but also blessed with loving family and friends (the latter she describes as “impoverished but brilliant”), Ferris shared a rather upbeat message: “If you’re an aspiring writer and you have awful things happen to you, thank your lucky stars!”.

A scholarship student at the Art Institute of Chicago, she was told by a well-meaning teacher “There’s no future in this”, referring to Ferris’ more “comic book”  style of art.

Ferris spoke of her struggling times, before she was published, when she conducted imaginary interviews with NPR’s Terry Gross which eventually became a reality. “Do what you love but “audition”, prepare [for your success]”, she encouraged.

The first twenty-four pages of “My Favorite Thing is Monsters” was her Art Institute Thesis. The rest of the book, she describes as being developed more organically. “I didn’t have everything mapped out. I didn’t know what the ending would be early on.”

“The drawing informed the writing and the writing informed the drawing. It was a fusion.”

The road to completion of “Monsters”, Ferris’ first book, was arduous. When she was 40, she contracted West Nile virus which left her with some paralysis. She had lean years, but quipped, “Evanston is a great place to be poor. The rich always throw away good stuff!”

Another odd roadblock was that as the 1st printed copies of "Monsters" were being shipped by boat to the U.S., the boat's crew abandoned their ship and cargo at Panama due to disputes over not being by the shipping company. This delayed the debut of the book.

In spite of her hardships, Ms. Ferris was determined to encourage aspiring writers/artists. “Use everything that has happened to you. Use it like Macgyver! —To get out of the “box” you’re in. Do not give up!”

“Always dream. And believe in your dream!” she added.

She said for the art in her book, she used ball-point pen (sometimes of different colors) and Flair marker pens.

When asked, “What is a monster?”, Ferris thought a moment and responded, “We are. I am. We’re overcomers that are strong but also both good and evil.”

Her typical day begins with coffee and listening to music. Recently she enjoys the song “Insane Asylum”.

“I listen to it and have visions.” she explains. “Honor your imagination and tell yourself stories. Refuse to sign up for everyone’s crazy…. And get rid of TV!”

Emil Ferris' book, "My Favorite Thing is Monsters" is on Entertainment Weekly's list of Top 10 books of 2017