You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘France’ tag.

Silicon Valley is now using empathy as a marketing tool to sell virtual reality equipment.

The late Steve Erwin’s son is an award-winning photographer and these photos show why.

Why it’s hard to separate Woody Allen the director from Woody Allen the person.

Yes, you can make your own solar cells from white powdered donuts.

The first historical record of Jesus describes him as a “magician.”

An interesting looking crochet version of The Exorcist.

Obama goes from the White House to Wall Street in less than one year.

Amateur artist turns old flip-flops into amazing action figures.

12-year-old boy creates creepy yet awesome sculptures using found materials.

The psychedelic retro-futurism of Swedish artist Kilian Eng.

The making of the first hand-drawn VR cartoon.

People are attacking Kendall and Kylie Jenner for their racist handbags…again.

Ivanka Trump hides behind her White House job to avoid a copyright lawsuit.

LuLa Roe has just changed its return policy and its consultants are screwed.

Scenes from 30 movies re-enacted with LEGO bricks.

Eight before-and-after graffiti transformations that create beauty out of blankness.

World-renowned primatologist Jane Goodall likens Donald Trump to a chimpanzee.

Bruce Springsteen lists 20 of his favorite books.

The chateau you should visit in France instead of Versailles.

Pepe the Frog’s creator has found a reliable way to fight the alt-right’s appropriation of his character.

Street-style photographers unite to proclaim #NoFreePhotos

How the band Rage Against the Machine predicted Donald Trump’s presidency 17 years ago.

This amazing tree that shows how languages are connected will change the way you see our world.

One woman’s quest to save Baltimore television, including some early footage featuring a young Oprah Winfrey.

Download Theft! A History of Music is a new free graphic novel exploring 2,000 years of musical borrowing.

Bic ballpoint pen portraits drawn on vintage maps and stationery by Mark Powell.

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Dancing Skeleton

Today is the day after Halloween and the first day of the two-day Mexican holiday known as El Día De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). In addition, Inktober officially ended right on Halloween yesterday. I succeeded in drawing and uploading 31 ink drawings in 31 days from October 1-31. I finished Inktober at the same time as I ended up getting sick with this stomach flu where I constantly felt nauseous and I alternated between going through dry heaves and diarrhea. The fact that it also happened on the same day as Halloween totally sucks. I barely managed to get myself together enough to give out treats to the trick or treaters. Instead of going to a Halloween night party at a friend’s house, I had to make an emergency run to Giant after the official trick or treat time ended just so I could pick up some medication and toilet paper.

Today I feel better in that the dry heaves and diarrhea has subsided and I feel mostly tired. I took a nap today and I’ll probably go to bed early tonight so I can rest some more.

As I go over the drawings I did during the month, I realized that I could easily put them into certain categories (with many of those drawings falling under more than one category).

Animals: Penguin, panda bear, black cat, dinosaur, swan, pig, two former ride cars from the now-defunct Enchanted Forest amusement park shaped like a duckling and a swan, Willie the Whale, goat, and Zombie Dog.

Based on Dolls I Currently Own: Volks Dollfie Dream, Batgirl and Wonder Woman (with Donald Trump and by themselves).

Building: Crooked House.

Clark’s Elioak Farm: Two former ride cars from the now-defunct Enchanted Forest shaped like a duckling and a swan, the Crooked House, Willie the Whale, goat.

Death Penalty: Guillotine.

Friday the 13th: Black cat.

Halloween/Day of the Dead: The Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz, Goat Man, Zombie Dog, Day of the Dead skeleton, Frankenstein, Jack O’Lantern.

Hollywood Scandal: Harvey Weinstein.

My Own 100% Original Character: Zombie Dog.

Native American (For Indigenous Peoples Day a.k.a. Columbus Day): Wolf kachina.

Real People: Donald Trump with Jesus Christ, Donald Trump again (with Wonder Woman and Batgirl), Donald Trump yet again, Donald Trump one more time, Tom Petty, burlesque performer Reverend Valentine, Harvey Weinstein, my father-in-law, my mother (which also includes Elvis Presley), Madonna Girl Dale.

Religious-Related Drawings: Jesus Christ (with Donald Trump), Unitarian Universalist flaming chalice, wolf kachina.

People Who Celebrated a Birthday During Inktober: My mother.

People Who Died During Inktober: Tom Petty and my father-in-law.

Politics: Donald Trump with Jesus Christ, Donald Trump again (with Wonder Woman and Batgirl), Donald Trump yet again, Donald Trump one more time.

Relatives: My father-in-law and mother.

Superheroes: Batgirl and Wonder Woman together with Donald Trump and by themselves.

Supernatural Book/Movie Characters: The Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz and Frankenstein.

Virtual Models from Figurosity.com: Woman running with a gun, woman dressed in psychedelic tye-dye outfit holding a gun.

The biggest challenge for me is that working on a new drawing a day then uploading it online to this blog and various social media sites took a portion of my time that I could’ve spent doing other things (such as doing house cleaning, putting up Halloween decorations, sending out a few more resumes). That was the main reason why I had quit a previous effort to do one new drawing per day starting on January 1, 2016 (which was a New Year’s resolution). I think the reason why I was more successful at Inktober than my previous daily drawing effort last year was because I knew it was only for 31 days that I had to worry about doing a new drawing each day. After that I could draw as much or as little as I wanted.

Even though there was an official Inktober prompt list of one word for each different day, I was more interested in doing my own thing since this is the first year I participated in this. (Inktober has been going on since 2009.) I only used the official prompt list if I was stumped for inspiration. Now that I got my desire to draw whatever I wanted for Inktober out of my system, I’m thinking that if I was to do this again next year, I would discipline myself by sticking strictly with the prompt list. It would be a way to challenge myself, especially since I’m sure that there will be a word or two that will have me totally stumped at first.

The biggest benefit I got from Inktober is that I was able to learn which social media sites gave me the best exposure in terms of publicizing myself and my work. I uploaded my drawings to the current popular social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) as well as other social media sites I haven’t posted anything in a while. These sites used to be relatively popular until they were overshadowed by Facebook/Instagram/Twitter. I decided to upload to them because I wanted to see if I should still bother with them. I found that the absolute worst were Flickr and Google+ because I only got one “Like” on both platforms and that was it. Tumblr was hit or miss in that I got maybe one or two Notes (which is Tumblr’s version of “Like”) for some of my drawings but there were others that got zero Notes. (The one drawing that got the most attention was the one I did of Tom Petty and that one only got four Notes.) Minds, the open source alternative social media site, was just as hit or miss as Tumblr in that I got maybe one or two “Likes” on some drawings but others were totally ignored.

By far the best response I got was on this blog and Instagram. In fact I got new followers on both platforms because of Inktober. Twitter came in at a close second in that I also got new followers as well as retweets. Facebook was surprisingly more of a mixed-bag. While I got a better response than Flickr, Google+, Tumblr, and Minds combined, the response rate was lower than this blog, Instagram, and Twitter.

The one major social media site that I didn’t use was LinkedIn because that one is more of a professional social media site and some of my drawings were either too political (such as the ones featuring Donald Trump) or the subject matter was one where I just didn’t feel comfortable in posting there (such as the one about the Harvey Weinstein action figure). I’ve seen people get chewed out on LinkedIn for posting anything that was even remotely controversial (especially one that’s political) and I’d rather avoid it since it’s common knowledge that would-be employers tend to look you up on LinkedIn to see if you’re someone they would even want to hire. I don’t want to lose out on any potential opportunity because of some post I made there.

It was time consuming to upload the same drawing on so many different social media sites per day but at least I gained knowledge on which ones are worth investing my time in promoting myself in the future so it was worth it in the end.

I also learned that there is certain value in practicing drawing only for yourself because you’ll never know when one of those drawings you’ve done have struck inspiration to do a regular art project based on what you’ve drawn. I’m thinking about doing a watercolor version of that swan I drew during Inktober because I really liked the results.

Another positive result of Inktober is that I discovered Figurosity.com and that site was valuable in providing virtual models for me to practice my drawing with. I plan to use that site for my drawing more often.

I also looked at other people’s Inktober drawings on social media and I was amazed by the amount of creativity I saw there. There were a few people who did some really ambitious things for Inktober. I saw some people do two or more drawings per day, which I personally admired since I found it a challenge to do even one new drawing in a small sketchbook every single day. I saw one guy who was working on a graphic novel and he decided to use Inktober to draw and ink one new page per day. There was another person who decided to use Inktober do a large complex drawing where the person inked just one section of that drawing each day with the goal being that the large complex drawing would be completed on October 31.

The biggest challenge with Inktober is to maintain my enthusiasm for continuing with drawing one new drawing per day then uploading it online. The first few days I was very eager and enthusiastic. But then I came down with this nasty cold but I continued to work through that cold even though my body wanted to get more sleep so it can knock off those cold germs. After I got rid of that cold I began to gradually view the daily Inktober sketches more and more as some time-consuming daily chore instead of something that I was excited and enthusiastic about. Even though I tried to keep the designs relatively simple and I used a small sketchpad, I still found myself burning out towards the end. This was especially true when I wanted to put up Halloween decorations or go to some Halloween-related local event only to remind myself that I needed to make time for my daily Inktober drawings.

By the last week I went to Clark’s Elioak Farm because I wanted to draw enough pencil sketches so I could just ink over them on the allotted day for the next few days. Then I spent one additional evening filling up my sketchbook with enough Halloween-themed pencil sketches to last me until the very end of the month.

But then I began to just burn out on even doing the ink over the pencil outlines, especially during that last weekend before Halloween. I started to partially-ink over more than one pencil sketch a day or two before the allotted date while leaving each one intentionally unfinished until the allotted date, when I would finish it so I could technically say that I did work on one new drawing per day each day during Inktober. One evening, about two nights before the end of Inktober, I used my free time to do the bulk of the inking on my scheduled drawings of the last two days while leaving just a small area of each drawing unfinished so I could spend less than 15 minutes completing each drawing on the allotted day.

I did it this way because I grew tired of spending anywhere from a half-an-hour to a full hour working on each new drawing then spending additional time photographing my drawing then uploading it on my various social media accounts. You may think that I was cheating but I don’t care. If I hadn’t done something like this, I would’ve grown so tired of spending a chunk of time on my Inktober sketch that I would’ve quit just days before October 31.

Right now I’m typing this in the early days of NaNoWriMo, which is something similar to Inktober where you spend every day in November writing your novel. I’ve read about people who are doing NaNoWriMo but I’m definitely not taking part in this. Spending time each day doing Inktober was enough for me without having to go from doing daily Inktober drawings in October to writing daily NaNoWriMo prose in November.

Now that Inktober is over, I’m going to take some time off from drawing on a daily basis because I have other things in my life that I need to focus on (such as the upcoming winter holidays in December). Ultimately I’m going to try doing a new drawing in my sketchbook at least once a month. I would do this by just working on that drawing in blocks of 15 minutes on a given day (and that would be only if I had extra time available for me to do such a drawing). I would keep on working on the same drawing, 15 minutes at a time and one day at a time, until I’m finished. Basically I want to practice my drawing but on a more leisurely schedule where I can balance that with other activities that require my attention at the same time.

Of course only time will tell whether I actually achieve this. (LOL!) But I’m willing to at least give it a try.

Here are a few things I would advise a person who’s thinking about doing either Inktober next year or simply wants to devote a different month to doing one drawing per day (such as December or March or June):

1. Don’t obsess too much about drawing supplies. I know the official Inktober site has a list of recommended supplies but some of these supplies (such as Micron pens) can be pretty expensive to those on a tight budget. If you can’t afford the recommended Inktober supplies, don’t fret. Just go with cheaper supplies instead. I did my Inktober drawings using a cheap pack of multicolored Paper Mate InkJoy pens that I purchased at Target for only $10. And I wasn’t the only one who didn’t use the best supplies either. I saw quite a few Inktober drawings that were done only with the cheap disposable blue ink Bic ballpoint pens and I found them to be just as interesting and well-done as the ones that were used with the more expensive pens. As for drawing paper, I would recommend shopping around because sometimes you can find the best bargains. Here’s one example: I’ve seen 9” x 12” (23 cm x 30 cm) sketchbook drawing pads on sale at my local Five Below store for only $5.

2. Use a small sketchbook that’s no bigger than 9” x 12” (23 cm x 30 cm). Not only will you fill up the page faster than with a larger sketchbook but a smaller sketchbook is more portable. I did my Inktober drawings using a 4” x 6” (10 cm x 15 cm) sketchbook. When I decided to travel to Clark’s Elioak Farm to do some more Inktober drawings, all I had to do was to put my sketchbook (along with my pens and pencils) in my purse and I was good to go. Heck, I saw some Inktober sketches online that were drawn on Post-It Notes.

3. If you can, try setting aside a certain time each day to work on your Inktober sketch. It could be when you wake up the first thing in the morning or after dinner or whenever. If you can’t commit to the same time every day, then just take advantage of whatever free time suddenly materializes to do your drawings. I’ve seen people admit that they did their Inktober sketches while riding public transportation on the way to or from their day jobs. I’ve even seen people admit that they did their drawings on the sly while being forced to sit in on a boring lecture at school or they took advantage of some downtime at work. Just do whatever works for you.

4. The one thing about Inktober I learned is that you can do some advance drawings in pencil as long as you wait until the designated day to do the final inking. In fact, I learned that this year’s official Inktober prompt list was put online two weeks before the month began so one could have the luxury to decide what he/she wanted to draw on the designated day and even do a rough sketch in pencil. I took advantage of this policy towards the end of the month when I began to burn out on doing a new drawing every day and I was in danger of quitting before the month was over. What I did was to go to Clark’s Elioak Farm, where I finished one new drawing in ink but I did other unfinished drawings in pencil that I could finish in ink over the next few days. By the time I finished that series, it was close to Halloween so I spent one evening just doing a pencil drawing of Madonna Girl Dale (who usually wears a costume in public all year round) followed by pencil drawings of traditional Halloween and Day of the Dead figures until the 31st drawing of the month. So I spent the last week of Inktober just coloring in one previously made pencil drawing in ink per day until I reached the last drawing on Halloween.

5. If you hit a rough patch where you really can’t focus on doing any complicated detailed drawings or you don’t have a lot of time to do anything too complex, just do a simple drawing that you can easily finish in 30 minutes or less. I experienced this challenge earlier this month when I came down with this horrible cold that literally left me feeling very weak and tired all the time. For those days I decided to do simple drawings of a penguin and a panda bear because those animals were relatively easy for me to draw quickly before I felt tired enough to take another nap. As an added bonus, those two drawings were basically black and white drawings so I didn’t have to do much thinking while I drew them. I also didn’t bother with drawing backgrounds because that would’ve been more time-consuming and I didn’t feel wide awake enough to draw something that would’ve been more complex.

6. Don’t be a perfectionist about your drawing. The whole purpose of Inktober is to practice your drawing, not focusing on being the next Rembrandt or Keith Haring. The idea is to do a quick drawing that can be done in a small part of your day.

7. Don’t be afraid of posting your drawings online, even if you personally feel less than enthusiastic about your latest drawing. I found that people tended to be really nice towards those who posted their Inktober drawings and many of them gave positive feedback. I personally didn’t encounter any cyberbullying in the month that I posted my Inktober drawings online. Just post your drawing online even if you personally don’t like it because there will be people who will like it better than you do.

Well, that’s it for Inktober 2017. I’ll end this post with a couple of embedded things in case you’ve missed some or all of the Inktober drawings I’ve been uploading over the past month. One is a YouTube video that includes some catchy background music.

If you prefer to view the pictures at your own pace without background music, you can view my Flickr album instead.

Inktober 2017

Today the French are celebrating Bastille Day, when the rebels stormed Bastille prison and it not only resulted in releasing seven inmates but it was also the turning point in the French Revolution. It is the French equivalent of the Fourth of July and there is a lot of partying and fireworks going on right now as you’re reading this.

For this occasion, I’m going to once again show my animation The March of Liberty since it includes an appearance by Marianne (who’s the symbol of France) as she marches to “La Marseillaise” (a.k.a. the French national anthem). This is the same animation that was shown at Light City in Baltimore earlier this year. Enjoy!

I’m heartened to see that a couple of European countries are rejecting the right-wing extremism that catapulted Donald Trump to the White House last November. First it was the Dutch who rejected such a candidate last month. Today the French did the same by jettisoning openly fascist candidate Marine Le Pen.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the voters in both countries took one look at what happened in the U.S. and decided to use their own elections to say “OH, HELL NO!!!” at the ballot box to their own far-right extremist candidates.

I recently completed my latest animation called The March of Liberty. I’m going to post it here first while posting all the details about the making of this animation underneath the video.

Now here’s the story behind this video. Last summer the local STEM center Makerspace 125 decided to offer a series of free weekly workshops on animation, which would be centered around this new animation program that was released as free open source software known as OpenToonz. It created a lot of buzz, especially in the tech press, because this application is based on the high-end software that was used by the Japanese animation company Studio Ghibli when it made its hit anime films like Spirited Away and Ponyo.

So I went to a few meetups where I played around a bit with OpenToonz on my MacBook until I got annoyed that it kept on frequently crashing. I was stuck for ideas on what my first new animation (since doing the web ad for a new non-profit low-powered radio station) would be about until I was working on a page of my Doll Dreams art book in early July. Since the French holiday Bastille Day was coming on July 14, I decided to do a French-themed character. I did some research on the Wikipedia where I learned about Marianne, who is basically the French equivalent of Uncle Sam. So I did some Marianne art in my Doll Dreams book (which I have since misplaced, which is why I haven’t made any further posts about that book since last July).

As I was researching Marianne I learned that not only was she an inspiration for the Statue of Liberty (which isn’t a major stretch since the statue’s creator, Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, was French) but Marianne herself was inspired by the ancient Roman goddess Libertas. When I looked up Libertas on the Wikipedia, I learned that she was based on the Greek goddess, Artemis Eleutheria, which was a variant of the Greek goddess Artemis but her worshippers in the Greek city of Myra named her Artemis Eleutheria (with “eleutheria” being the Greek word for “liberty”).

So once I finished my Marianne page for my Doll Dreams book, I decided it would be cool idea to do a short animation tracing the lineage from the Greek Artemis Eleutheria to the Roman Libertas to the French Marianne to, finally, the Statue of Liberty. I drew a storyboard where I had a woman emerge from a privacy screen adorned with the Greek flag with the name “Artemis Eleutheria,” walk past some of the major Athens attractions, then duck behind another privacy screen with the Italian flag and the name “Libertas,” walk past some more attractions, etc. until the Statue of Liberty appears at the end. I even thought about using the national anthems of the countries involved (Greece, Italy, France, and the United States) as the soundtrack.

But then I hit a major snag and it was regarding OpenToonz. First it was the program’s penchant for frequently crashing. New upgrades were being frequently released and I finally found a version that didn’t crash so often. Now for the bad news. Not only was it extremely difficult to quit out of the application once you loaded it (I had to use “Force Quit” if I wanted to exit from the program) but I also found out that the Mac version of OpenToonz did not export the animation as a standalone video file at all. That’s right, an animation program that didn’t export a standalone video file. My only choice was a series of still images and I would need to find a different video program where I would have to manually put those separated files together and export them as a standalone video file.

That was incredibly frustrating, especially since the Windows version of OpenToonz gave users the option of exporting it as an .avi file. Mac users didn’t even have that luxury. I decided to put The March of Liberty on the back burner rather than waste time dealing with the software turkey known as OpenToonz. Instead I made this video called OpenToonz Sucks where I highlighted all the deficiencies of that program.

I also wrote a blog post detailing further my frustration dealing with that program. I basically wanted to warn other people, especially Mac users, to avoid OpenToonz like the plague. Despite the fact that I gave up on OpenToonz I still continued to go to the animation meetup at Makerspace 125 mainly because they also showed classic cartoons during that meetup so I basically watched the cartoons while doing other things with my MacBook besides making cartoons with OpenToonz. Not long after I made my OpenToonz Sucks video, someone in that meetup group encouraged me to download an updated version. I gave it another shot and found that not only did OpenToonz for the Mac was still not capable of exporting any animations as a standalone video file but this upgrade included being able to export the animation as a series of still pictures in this obscure file format that’s only readable by high-end laser machines. (WTF?!?) That prompted me to write this sequel titled OpenToonz Still Sucks Despite Its Recent Upgrade.

So my March of Liberty animation remained on the back burner for a few months. I looked into alternatives to OpenToonz but I was too cash-poor to even consider any paid applications.

But then I came into some money. It wasn’t a lot of money. Basically I had done some work for a startup back in May but I walked off the job after two weeks because I didn’t get paid. (I was paid for the first few days but then the payments stopped.) It was the same startup where the founder convinced me to write a post about it in this blog instead of getting a separate blogging account just for that startup because he couldn’t be bothered with getting one (despite the fact that many major blogging platforms offer free accounts). That startup was such a disaster that I had to make a new policy for this blog where I would no longer write about any work I do for other people in this blog until after the job was done (or there was some other kind of closure).

The startup owner finally paid me for the work I did in November. Even though I’m glad he finally paid up, I still wouldn’t work for him again for a number of reasons. (Basically the way he ran his business—including not even bothering with registering for a vendor booth at the events where he wanted to sell the startup’s products but, instead, just show up at the event without first notifying the event organizers and mingle among the crowd while selling everything out of backpacks in a manner similar to hot dog and beer vendors working the crowd in a sports stadium—screamed “AMATEUR” and “UNPROFESSIONAL”.)

I was able to use the money to buy a low-end animation program. After much research, I decided on Smith Micro’s Anime Studio Debut. It costs only $30 in the App Store. In addition, I also have the option of upgrading to the more robust $99 Anime Studio Pro at a later date. So far I like the debut version but I’ll definitely keep the pro version in mind if I ever feel like I’ve reached my creative limits with the debut and I really want to branch out further.

Compared to OpenToonz, Anime Studio Debut worked like a dream. There are a few glitches in that software but they were nothing compared to the total fuckery of OpenToonz. I did most of the work in Anime Studio Debut, with a few of the images (which were mainly the background images) being initially done in Photoshop (mainly by applying the various filters on some pictures I downloaded from the Internet) before being imported into Anime Studio Debut. Unlike OpenToonz, I was able to export my animations as standalone .mp4 videos in Anime Studio Debut. I assembled the various animated .mp4 videos in iMovie, paired it with some music, exported the animation, and uploaded it online.

As I was working on this animation, my idea as to how to end it evolved. I originally was going to end it with a closeup of the Statue of Liberty until I read in the news about how the U.S. Mint had issued its latest Lady Liberty coin. Unlike the previous Liberty coins, this new coin features an African American woman (or a Lady Liberty with African American features). Of course that coin received racist backlash.

That incident prompted me to create a new ending. After the closeup of the Statue of Liberty, I feature images of three different Liberty coins. The first one is an older coin depicting the Statue of Liberty. (Actually that one is the dollar coin, which usually has the Statue of Liberty on one side and an image of a deceased President of the United States on the other.) The second one is a 2015 Liberty coin featuring a more human looking Lady Liberty with short hair. The third one is the 2017 coin that has all the racists feeling totally butt-hurt over the fact that Lady Liberty now has African American features. Provocative? You bet it is!

Seriously people need to get a grip! Lady Liberty is no different from other mythical figures like Santa Claus, fairies, and elves. While she may have originated in Europe, there’s really no rule that says that she MUST remain white at all times. Look at elves. They originated in Norwegian mythology but they have literally spread all over the world way beyond the Scandinavian peninsula. Don’t believe me? Check out this ball-jointed elf doll that is currently being made by a Chinese company known as Bobobie and you can even order her right here.

As for the music, I used the national anthems of the various nations represented in the animation. Here’s the information about each song.

“Ymnos seis tīn Eleutherían” (Greek national anthem) came from the Public Domain Archive’s YouTube channel. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution (reuse allowed).

“Il Canto deli Italiani” (Italian national anthem) was declared to be in the public domain by the Italian Ministry of Defense. This version came from Wikimedia Commons.

“La Marseillaise” (French national anthem) was recorded by the U.S. Marine Band in 1897. This recording came from the Internet Archive.

“The Star-Spangled Banner” (American national anthem) was recorded by the U.S. Marine Band in 1910. This recording is courtesy of the Free Music Archive.

In a way it was a blessing that I had to wait a few months later to finish my animation given the current political climate. The Trump Administration has only been in power for two weeks and there is already a lot of daily drama along with a lot of alienated people. (Yesterday President Trump managed to be totally rude to the Prime Minister of Australia. Australia!!! The same Australia that’s among the U.S.’s closest allies!!!) I uploaded that animation soon after the recent Women’s March on Washington so I think it’s very perfect timing to upload a female-centric animation like The March of Liberty online.

Santa Claus

A long time ago I learned that going downtown on Christmas Eve is the best place to be on Christmas Eve because everything is relatively empty. That’s because so many people tend to pack into the suburban shopping malls doing last-minute shopping while the stores in the city are empty. I’ve spent previous Christmas Eves in both Baltimore and DC and it’s the same situation.

I thought about a lot of places I could go to on Christmas Eve. In Baltimore I could go to the Walters Art Museum, Fells Point, or the Ripleys Believe It or Not! Odditorium. In Washington, DC I could go to any of the Smithsonian museums, Chinatown, or Georgetown.

But then it rained on Christmas Eve, which put a damper on a lot of things I would’ve loved to have done (especially going to places where I would be spending a good bit of time outside) and I was not in the mood to do a lot of driving in such lousy weather. I ultimately decided to go to Union Station and the Smithsonian National Postal Museum mainly because both places were located next to each other so I could take the Red Line Metro to the Union Station stop. I exited on to the lower level, where I found that it wasn’t very crowded at all.

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I hadn’t been to Union Station in a long time. I was looking forward to eating sushi for lunch at the Hibachi stand followed by going to Vaccaro’s Italian Pastry for dessert. Except when I arrived I found that half of the lower level where all of the fast food type places are located had been blocked off. While there are still places where one can get a quick bite to eat, there are far fewer choices than before. (That’s not to mention that both Hibachi and Vaccaro’s are both gone.) I ended up going to a Chinese food stand where I ordered orange chicken with two side dishes. But I ordered my lunch around the same time that they changed employees and I told the replacement employee that I had told the other one that wanted the orange chicken. She had me try the tofu and led me to believe that it was one of the side dishes. So I ordered the tofu as a side dish and told her that the orange chicken would be the main dish. Except when I got my meal and went to one of tables I found that this employee had given me the tofu as the main dish. The tofu was okay but I would’ve preferred the orange chicken. On top of it, the green beans side dish was undercooked. I made a mental note of never ordering anything from that place again.

After lunch I did some more walking around. I found out that the reason why the lower level had been cut in half was because Walgreen’s had moved in and opened this giant store.

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There was one large aisle dedicated to purchasing every kind of Washington, DC souvenir that you could think of.

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I’ve been to various Walgreen’s stores over the years but this is the first one I’ve ever been in that actually has a sushi bar that makes fresh sushi on the premises.

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If it hadn’t been for that less-than-thrilling Chinese lunch I had already eaten, I would’ve tried the Walgreen’s sushi for the hell of it.

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I made my way to the upper level where the upscale shops are located and I found that they were not crowded at all.

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Since my last visit to Union Station I saw that the DC Lottery had opened its own store where anyone can buy—what else?—lottery tickets.

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I decided to eat some dessert. Since Vaccarro’s Italian Pastry was gone, I thought about going to the Corner Bakery instead since I’ve eaten their desserts in the past and I found them quite good. But I found out that it was replaced by a French pastry place known as Le Pain Quotidien. I found their Christmas-themed dessert display to be quite charming.

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I ordered the sea salted chocolate and caramel tart and it was wrapped up in this nice looking box. The tart was excellent.

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I saw the Christmas tree that was a gift from the Norwegian Embassy.

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There was also a special exhibition documenting the joint U.S.-Norwegian explorations of the Polar Regions.

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There was a large toy train layout that I found to be quite lovely.

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On my way to one of the exit doors I saw this pigeon who somehow may its way inside Union Station. It was walking around among the various people on the floor like it was going shopping or rushing to take the next Amtrak train. I thought it was quite a hilarious scene.

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Outside of Union Station is this futuristic looking dome where one can rent a bike.

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Right next door to Union Station is the Smithsonian National Postal Museum. It’s one of the newer Smithsonian museums that had opened in recent years but I never got around to stepping foot inside until Christmas Eve.

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I don’t even know what took me so long to visit this place (especially since I’m a local resident). I’m glad I finally did because the interiors are absolutely breathtaking.

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As you can guess by the name, this museum is dedicated to the history of the U.S. Postal Service and postage stamps. Naturally stamp collectors will get the biggest kick out of this museum but there are plenty of things on display to wow those who aren’t into stamp collecting.

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This museum features Owney, a homeless dog who became the mascot of the U.S. Postal Service for a time until his death over 100 years ago. Here’s a bronze statue of the dog.

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And here’s the real Owney, as preserved by a taxidermist.

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Owney was the Grumpy Cat of his day—a beloved animal celebrity who received attention and presents (in the form of special tags indicating where he travelled to) everywhere he went. The next photo shows the many tags he received and are currently on display draping his stuffed carcass.

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The gift shop also has a smaller stuffed animal version of Owney for sale.

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I didn’t buy that stuffed animal but I did buy a short book on the dog’s life for only $4.

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Since I arrived at the museum on Christmas Eve, I got a chance to see the museum’s Christmas tree with surrounding poinsettias.

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The one exhibit that excited me the most was the one on PostSecret: The Power of a Postcard. That’s because, through my past involvements with Artomatic, I know that PostSecret originally started as an Artomatic exhibit that was put on by the writer Frank Warren. That exhibit was such a phenomenal success that it overshadowed the other Artomatic exhibits that were on display that year. That exhibit was eventually turned into a series of books and I remember the times when he held book signings at various Artomatic events mainly as Frank Warren’s way of showing appreciation for the event that started it all. (You can read about those book signings here and here.)

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Now PostSecret has turned into a Smithsonian exhibit, which is pretty cool. The next photo shows just a small portion of the postcards that Frank Warren has received over the years.

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Here’s something that was actually sent on a coconut.

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I’m still amazed that something I’m familiar with from my involvement with Artomatic has become a Smithsonian exhibit.

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The photos I took are just a small sample of what’s currently on display at that exhibit.

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There was an area that was especially made for stamp collectors. One can view the various stamps currently on file in a special room. The stamps are in a case that one can pull out and they are organized by nation, year, and type of stamp. I can imagine a hardcore stamp collector spending at least two days in that area alone just looking at all of the stamps on file.

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That area also had the world’s first postage stamp on display. It was a British stamp known as the Penny Black and it was released in 1840.

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There was a hands-on exhibit where one can design a stamp on a touch screen computer. Here is the stamp I designed.

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There was even an area that’s designed for anyone who’s thinking about starting his/her own stamp collection and one can get the first stamps for free. First you get an envelope like this.

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Then you go through this bin picking out stamps you’d like to put in your envelope.

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I have a confession to make. The rules of picking out free stamps basically said that each person was limited to six stamps in order to make the free stamps available for everyone. There were so few people in the museum the day that I was there that I actually broke the rules and picked out seven stamps. I wasn’t caught (mainly because there were so few people there) and I got away with it. I’m not saying that what I did was right or correct and if there had been a ton of people in the museum that day I would’ve obeyed the rules. But I fell into temptation because there were so few people and, besides, I only took one extra stamp and not like—let’s say—30 extra stamps.

Here are the stamps I picked out. I’ll admit that I was inspired by the recent elections and the incoming President Donald J. Trump Administration along with all the doubts swirling around him as to whether he will even follow the Constitution. So I chose this stamp commemorating the 175th anniversary of the U.S. Bill of Rights.

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As a former Journalism major in college and current blogger, this next stamp really appealed to me. It features a quill and ink along with the words “The Ability to Write-A Root of Democracy.”

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I picked out this stamp featuring George Washington since he was not only one of the Founding Fathers but he was also the first President of the United States and he set the tone for how the succeeding presidents should always follow the Constitution.

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I picked out this stamp featuring Martha Washington because she was not only the first First Lady but I’m sure she went through her own trials and tribulations while supporting her husband first as a hero of the American Revolution then as President of the United States. It’s like the old saying goes: “Behind every man is a woman.”

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I picked out Thomas Jefferson because he was also a hero of the American Revolution, a Founding Father of this nation, and he was instrumental in including many rights that we Americans take for granted (such as the freedom of the press) and could possibly be threatened under Donald Trump’s presidency.

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I picked out Benjamin Franklin, another Founding Father who was the first Postmaster General. Plus I’m currently running the weekly Benjamin Franklin Fridays in this blog where I include quotations from his Poor Richard’s Almanack book.

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I chose Susan B. Anthony because she was a suffragette who fought hard to win the women’s right to vote.

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I chose one foreign stamp. This one is from France and it features Marianne, the French symbol of freedom who provided the inspiration for the Statue of Liberty.

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I basically hung around the museum until it was closing time. By that time the rain had stopped but it was still cloudy outside and the ground was wet. I was treated to a nice Christmas Eve sunset as I took the Metro back home.

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My last post was about my latest page in my Doll Dreams book that had my artwork based on the French symbol Marianne. I finished that page a few weeks ago but I scheduled the post to go live today since it’s Bastille Day in France.

Who would’ve thought that just hours after that post went live that a truck would plow into a crowd full of holiday observers in Nice? Now I’m seeing reports on my Facebook newsfeed that this was no tragic accident but a deliberate act of terror.

There are times like this when I hate my fellow human beings.

UPDATE (July 15, 2016): The Bastille Day Nice incident has been officially declared as an act of terrorism.

Previous Entries in This Series

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10
Part 11

Since today is Bastille Day in France, I decided to show off my latest addition to the Doll Dreams Book. Previously I did an American-themed page which I based on a three-part online tutorial that was posted on YouTube. That page faced a blank gesso page. Here is what the page looked like before I covered it in gesso and art.

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I know that three countries celebrate major national holidays in July—Canada Day on July 1, Independence Day in the U.S. on July 4, and Bastille Day in France on July 14. I managed to finish the American drawing in time for July 4, which falls after Canada Day. For the facing page I decided to do a similar French-themed work for Bastille Day.

I basically followed a similar format to the previous page where I did a quick cartoon-style sketch in pencil then used ink for all of the foreground elements and a watercolor pencil that was dipped in water for the background. I did her clothes, hat, and shoes in the same red, white, and blue flag colors. Her belt has the words “14 juillet” or 14 July, which is the date of Bastille Day.

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As for the woman, her name is Marianne. If you’re wondering why a woman named Marianne would fly the French flag wearing a belt that has the date of Bastille Day, you need to educate yourself. Basically Marianne is roughly the French equivalent of Uncle Sam but she also has some American ties as well. She was the original inspiration for the Statue of Liberty, which makes sense considering that the Statue of Liberty was created by a French sculptor named Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi.

This project was basically a quick one that I managed to finish in about a day-and-a-half. Right now I’m currently taking a little bit of a break from working on any more pages in this book because I’m trying to avoid burnout, like what happened by late August of last year. (I had originally intended to wait until around December or January before I resumed work on this book but I ended up not resuming until just a few days before Memorial Day weekend.) I only have four more pages that I need to work on before I’m totally done with this Doll Dreams Book.

While there are so many exhibits to check out over four floors in a variety of subject matter and a variety of 2D and 3D media, there is much more to Artomatic than just visual exhibits. There are all kinds of events—ranging from educational workshops to live performances—that are also held as well. On Friday, November 13 I decided to check out my first event called DC Drink and Draw. The premise of that event is self-explanatory: People bring their art supplies to draw whatever they want while drinking a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages from the nearby bar. Here are a few photos of what it’s like.

The DC Drink and Draw Event at Artomatic
The DC Drink and Draw Event at Artomatic

The DC Drink and Draw Event at Artomatic
The DC Drink and Draw Event at Artomatic

The DC Drink and Draw Event at Artomatic

The next photo shows one of my own drawings as a work in progress.

The DC Drink and Draw Event at Artomatic

Here is what it looked like when I finished it and scanned it into the computer using a scanner.

Poodle Wearing a Human Skirt

I did a 1950’s style illustration where I had a female poodle wear a human skirt (in a parody of the 1950’s poodle skirt fashion). I did one other drawing that evening but it’s way more serious.

Babar the Elephant Crying

This event took place on the same day as those horrible terrorist attacks that took place in France by members of the group known alternatively as ISIS or ISIL. Babar the elephant was created in France and I used to love reading his stories when I was a child. I felt that it made sense to have Babar crying over the newspaper headline regarding Paris.

As of this writing it looks like it’s the only DC Drink and Draw event that was scheduled at Artomatic but anything can change. Check the Events schedule for any word about whether this event will be repeated as well as any other events that will be happening at Artomatic. You can also keep up-to-date on any future DC Drink and Draw events through Meetup, Facebook, or Twitter.

Things have blown up on the Internet over what the hell happened in Paris yesterday on Friday the 13th. To some extent I can identify what Parisians are currently going through because I live just 20 miles from the Pentagon, which was one of the terrorist targets on September 11, 2001. Anyone who was anywhere between New York and Northern Virginia on that terrible day 14 years ago would understand what the people in Paris is going through.

Last night I went to Artomatic because there was a DC Drink and Draw event that I wanted to check out. In the midst of consuming my one beer (I tend not to drink too much these days if I’m driving) I decided to do this Paris themed art that also tapped into an old literary character from my childhood.

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It’s Babar the Elephant crying as he’s holding a newspaper with a headline announcing the terrorist attacks in Paris. Babar was created by a Freanchman named Jean de Brunhoff. I used to check out many Babar books out of the library when I was growing up. (I read the English translations of those books.) I loved reading about how Babar became King of the Elephants. I even used to watch the TV specials that were based on the books when I was growing up. So I thought it was appropriate to have Babar cry over what happened in Paris since he originated in France.

This morning was Saturday the 14th so I decided to do this photograph as well.

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The Eiffel Tower is actually a hand soap pump that I purchased from Kmart when that particular store was having its going out of business sale earlier this year. The doll is the mini doll version of American Girl’s special 2015 Girl of the Year, Grace Thomas. I purchased her earlier this year at Target for a fraction of the cost of her 18-inch counterpart. This photo is not only a response to what happened yesterday, it’s also the latest entry in my ongoing Occupy the Dollhouse series (which I update every now and then).

It’s very appropriate that Grace should be part of the Internet response to what happened yesterday in Paris. Her default meet outfit includes a t-shirt which features a drawing of the Eiffel Tower that says “Paris, Je T’aime.”

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Ironically my church is having its annual auction next week and it plans on serving a French dinner as part of the occasion. That French dinner was decided on months ago so it’s a sad irony that it’s now running concurrent with the aftermath of what happened in Paris.

I have never been to France and I’ve always wanted to go there. My great-grandfather, Wilhem Karle, was an ethnic German who came from the Alsace-Lorraine region that’s now a part of France. (How an ethnic German came from what is now a French state is an entirely different story.) I also want to visit Paris. I’ve seen replicas of the Eiffel Tower at both King’s Dominion and the French Pavilion located at Disney’s Epcot theme park. It would be cool to see the original. I want to visit the Louvre and see the famous Mona Lisa painting as well as other great works of art housed there. I want to visit the area where the famous Moulin Rouge nightclub is located. I want to walk along the Left Bank and visit the cafes in the area.

Despite yesterday’s terrorist attack, I still want to go to Paris. If someone were to offer me a chance to go to Paris tomorrow I would jump at it. Washington, DC didn’t die when one of those airplanes hit the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 so I’m expecting the same from Paris.

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