Point of Exquisite Suspension

Thoughts & life experiences of a Chicago area graphic artist

05 May 2018

Joking Our Way Into The Abyss

It's always fun until someone get's snapped out of existence. Thanos with his social engineering tool.
Marvel/Disney Studios' Avengers: Infinity War has been long anticipated by Comics Fans and even Pop-Culture Cinema aficionados of all ages. I'm sad that I was not able to view the film on its opening debut at my local theater. Scheduling difficulties forced me to see it an excruciating two-weeks later than most of my friends and, of course, my social media cohorts. I gave up on trying to avoid spoilers so I went in to see the movie knowing most of the important surprise twists and turns.

Nevertheless I enjoyed the story and the experience of seeing it play out first-hand. I found that the movie is actually a strange mix of cheesy jokes, warmed-over economic theory and philosophical/apocalyptic allusions.

Thanos in the comic version of the Infinity War Story is depicted as a "Mad Titan" who has deranged (nearly fetishistic/romantic) obsession with death. The movie Thanos, however, has a more pedestrian and pedantic motive of wanting to achieve "balance" in the universe: by "mercifully" eliminating half of the population of all people in the cosmos randomly through the use of the all-powerful Infinity Gauntlet (basically to provide more "elbow room"). He's like an "ivory-tower", know-it-all, bureaucrat who insists on foisting his pet theory or ideology on the public-at-large the moment he gets access to the levers of power.

History is full of such characters. Sure, the movie Thanos is crafted to be "complicated" with glimpses of back story full of loss and expressions of his love and sacrifice to achieve his "lofty" goals. But he IS the bad guy and his badness is actually made worse by his clueless self-righteousness and tinge of self-pity.

I felt somewhat of a serene detachment to the drama as the "worst-case-scenario" events made their fatalistic grinding way through the plot. In the meantime, as a fanboy, I enjoyed each of the super hero characters play out their roles together in a consummate team collaboration.

It also reminded me of the religious End-of-Days, Apocalyptic prophetic scenarios that are explored in the "Left Behind" books and films. Even Bucky (Winter Soldier) alludes to that sentiment when he tells Captain America, "I'm doing all right for the End of The World".

Avengers: Infinity War invites us to stare into the Abyss and consider the end... even though it's just a cliff-hanger at the end of the first installment of the two-movie story arc.

I couldn't resist making art of Trump as Thanos and the powers of the U.S. President as the Infinity Gauntlet.
Oddly, I found the movie Thanos to be a more sympathetic character than Trump.
  Art by © O. Douglas Jennings

18 April 2018

Happy Birthday Superman! Action Comics #1:The Big Bang of the Super Hero Genre in Comics

The comic book publishing industry as we know it was revolutionized on this day in 1938. That first issue of Action Comics was electrifying. It lay the foundation for a media empire and a Pop Culture Icon that still has global devotees after these 80 years.

 Superman Illustration © by O. Douglas Jennings
Below is a video that was created for Superman's 75th Anniversary:

Some might say Superman has lost some of his luster in these cynical times when the Lex Luthors of the world seem to be in power. But I think the Last Son of Krypton who, in his earliest depictions was a hero for the oppressed,  is more relevant than ever.

10 April 2018

Silly Daddy Forever Book Review

My two volumes of Silly Daddy comic books. Silly Daddy Forever is the most recent.

Because I had enjoyed his first Silly Daddy comics collection of slice-of-life stories told with his innovative comic style, I am happy that cartoonist Joe Chiappetta has published what I like to think of as his follow-up volume, Silly Daddy Forever (although many years have passed between volumes). When my copy arrived in the mail, I was pleasantly surprised by the large 11” x 8.5” format which is easy to read and showcases his comics well.

At the very beginning of the book he states the wonderful premise that “behind every face in the whole world … there is at least one epic story: not that everyone has the skill to tell such a story. Yet some will dare try.” I’m glad for Joe’s daring. It inspires me to ponder my own story and appreciate my own journey in life.

Some of the art is loose digital brushwork. Other times Joe has more detailed, finer-line renderings. I had seen a small number of the comics online on his blog. But the vast majority were new to me. At a certain point, as I read the many comics drawn in a fun variety of formats and styles -- from single panel to multi-panel comic pages, I decided that an appropriate description of the book would be “a Treasury”.

This Treasury is full of delightfully illustrated accounts of his life as a father, husband, artist and community organizer, Silly Daddy Forever is a poignant and often funny glimpse into Joe’s mindful sense of gratitude for everyday blessings, his love of family and for people in general.

I am captivated with this fun Treasury of the latest adventures of Silly Daddy and his lovely circle of family and friends. Silly Daddy Forever is inspirational, reflective, fun and a wonderful antidote to an increasingly divisive, cynical mass-cultural miasma in our society.

So I say, somewhat redundantly, “Long live Silly Daddy Forever!”

It will definitely have a long, actively-read life in my home library! 

Find out more about Silly Daddy Forever on Joe’s blogs:

27 February 2018

Be still and know…

Christus Consolator by Carl Bloch 1881 oil on canvas
251 x 170 cms Sofia Albertina Kyrka Landskrona Sweden
I learned to love stillness as a child. Maybe it was due to my introspective personality that needed and discovered the recharging and rejuvenating power of “alone time”. One of my favorite pastimes during the many days over a decade’s duration that I spent at my grandparents’ home was to sit alone in the rarely-used, parlor (an archaic name for the room for receiving guests which was appointed with the best furniture and, in our case, a piano). Even in the Winter, when the room’s door was kept shut to conserve heat, I would put on my coat and spend time in the parlor.

Sometimes I would read or draw or play with toys. But mostly I would rock back and forth in the upholstered stationary base rocking chair and gaze at the large, framed print of “Jesus, the Consolator” on the wall across from me. Jesus looked out from the painting with his arms raised in invitation for … what?… I guess an embrace. The eyes of all other people surrounding him in the picture were looking at their Savior. Except one. A little boy was the only other person looking out of the painting at the viewer. “He’s like me,” I would think.

Even now, although that old farm house with the parlor has long been razed, I travel back there in my mind for it’s delicious stillness.

More about the Artist and Painting Here.

08 February 2018

A Crossroad for Artists

As a person who has enjoyed earning a living as a Graphic Artist for the past three and a half decades, I am heartened and encouraged to see a new generation of creative innovators making their mark in the Graphic Arts field. I see such wonderful work by younger co-workers, through portfolios emailed to me and through various streams on social media. And I’m also encouraged by what I see of students in my additional role as an Art Instructor.

I remember when I was an art student: I revelled in learning skills and techniques that I could combine with my creativity to make works of my own art.  The source and energy of that exciting process seemed to come from another place. It was like I was watching myself as I brought forth a new creation that I couldn’t quite explain or account for logically. And so the thrill of making Art is derived, in part, by the feeling of being transported, in a way, outside of everyday circumstances. And in that timeless, alternate zone, anything seems possible.

Once in that creative zone, ideas, stories, solutions and artistic pleasure flowed so easily that I would freely give my art away and think nothing of it. Such generosity was just a natural progression of the creative flow as far as I was concerned. It wasn’t until I began contributing my art to the school newspaper, youth group event flyers, School play programs or to illustrate class projects that I began to see the practical value of my art in the eyes of other people and causes.

"I’ve seen that creative people, whether they are wielders of words, pictures, or other art forms, have the distinct and sometimes unfortunate position in society as they are praised and celebrated on one hand while conversely being undervalued in the marketplace."

But as the years have gone by, I’ve seen that creative people, whether they are wielders of words, pictures, or other art forms, have the distinct and sometimes unfortunate position in society as they are praised and celebrated on one hand while conversely being undervalued in the marketplace. Placing a value on a particular item of creative work is not necessarily a problem. It’s that in the minds of many artists, as they start their careers, making art and having it received by an audience, is payment in of itself. And so it is hard for them to have a practical perspective on how best to make a living from their Art if that’s what they want to do.

Eventually there comes a watershed moment, a fork in the road, if you will, in the life of any artist. It is the point at which one decides whether or not he or she has the necessary desire and endurance to make some sacrifice for art. This sacrifice usually involves undergoing the demanding discipline of more training in advance skills for both art and management of one’s business as an artist (That is a route filled with ups and downs that can tax one’s patience and resolve to the limit).  The other route, which is just as honorable, is to let one’s art serve as a more private refuge and pastime while making a living in other vocations. The main drawback of that path, perhaps, is being struck with the pangs of wondering what “might have been” had one pursued an Art career.

But I have come to realize that Art on any level, whether for fun or for work still has it’s own beauty and reward. It is one of humanity’s signature gifts and traits: the ability —and, in fact, the need— to create art, write stories, design and dream.

It has been said that Art is Humanity’s only true monument. As I look down through the ages of History past, it is the Art of long gone civilizations that most reveals the inner life and perspectives of people in a particular era.

So I say to anyone who enjoys making art at any level, continue to make art, create, write, express your visions, publish your work and test yourself with the realizations of your dreams. Whether you pursue art as a career or maintain it as a refuge, it will be a sustenance and treasure.

I would like to recommend the words encouraging artists of Irish Poet, John O’Donohue* in an excerpt from his poem
A Blessing for the Artist :

May your imagination know
The grace of perfect danger
To reach beyond imitation
And the wheel of repetition
Deep into the call of all
The unfinished and unsolved…

In order to come to birth
In a clean line of form.
That claims from time
A rhythm not yet heard.
That calls space to 
A different shape…

To surprise the hungry eye
By how deftly it fits
About its secret loss.

--excerpted from the book To Bless The Space Between Us by John O'Donohue

*In fact, I recommend all of O’Donohue’s published poetry and essays.

This article was adapted from a speech I gave at a celebratory reception of one of my students upon the publishing of third issue of his art anthology magazine.

19 January 2018

No Time? Know Time.

Sun and Moon Symbols to represent how Those Two Heavenly Bodies help us keep Time.  © O. Douglas Jennings
Time is an element of our lives that can be exasperating as well as mysterious. To live is to have time. To run out of time can seem like coming up against a harsh barrier.

But try to reframe your awareness of time. To Know Time is to bring your consciousness into the NOW.

Shifting your awareness of time can become a game. Speed it up. Slow it down. See as kind of like a book in which you can flip through the pages at your leisure.

To live is to have time. Miss a deadline? You're not dead are you? Whatever was lost, you still have time as long as you live.

Related post:
Mindful Spacetime

14 January 2018

A Man Among Wolves: Photographing Yellowstone’s Iconic Predators

Amazing, polarizing and fascinating creatures. Conservation photographer Ronan Donovan spent more than a year photographing Yellowstone National Park and the wolves that call it home. This was a side feature of an article on National Geographic's website about the remarkable life and tragic killing of Yellowstone National Park's most famous wolf.