Friday, October 02, 2009

463. The Making of "The Mountain's Last Flower" ::: A Tragic, Precautionary Tale (Novella, Major Project Summer 2009) IMAGE JUSTIFICATIONS

Since I was four years old, I had a knack for decorating my father's office, which is a professor's office. It then became some sort of hobby. It's kind of fun, I think I am making some kind of official profession now... decorating professors' offices with my cartoons and artwork!!! Environmental Media = Decorating Professors' Offices!

Yesterday, when I placed all my imagery from "The Mountain's Last Flower" (MLF) up on Blogger, I felt a strange, foreign void, as if I felt violated. At this moment in time, I think that void came from the notion that here I have been working... for three months on and off (one-point-five-months straight) on designing images and crafting MLF in writing... and then suddenly I just post all this hard work... FOR FREE... on blogger. Am I insane?! Well, according to the economic system, I am insane. I work very hard and get no pay. According to my soul, I am reviving it and patching it up. I am achieving internal As I told Shannon, when I croak, do I want to be in debt in money, or in debt in my soul? (Just to let you know, I like to use the word "soul" in the Plato Way--holistic, higher state of consciousness--not the Christian Way--your soul leaves your body and it goes to Heaven or Hxll) So, I decided to work on patching up my soul.... I think most people don't go to their cremation or mummification or bone box feeling like they did their soul any servicing. Welcome to most of America. Welcome to most of this world! But at least it's legal for me to be in monetary debt during schooling... so GO FOR IT! Replenish my soul! Whatever!

In order to avoid this sense of violation, I decided to establish a rule system. When my work is in the peer review process amidst my family and friends and colleagues around UCSB and the vicinity (and my hero-ine writers via snail mail), I will have my files up and easily accessible on the blog. But as soon as I send my work to literary agents and editors, then I will have to take my final draft down... but can still have rough-object items up... at no terrible cost!

The other realization I made is that it's actually "hard" to give people this story. I like to give people presents... but usually "happy" presents. But then again, this story is sad... sad, sad story... but my friend Shannon said, "I like sad stories... because they are real." Oh. Well, that makes one or two humans on this planet who like to confront reality. And it is a sad story about the death of a not-go-good-paradigm, so in a certain way, it's a happy story because it's a shocking celebration of the death of some form of denial ideology of scientists--thinking they can separate themselves from the system and deny they are "a part of the process"!

A BRIEF TIMELINE OF THE MOUNTAIN'S LAST FLOWER. Down the rabbithole of my summer... I guess you can say....

Early June: post writing "Catch Share," I was exposed to Duke and Dog, the concept flew to my head in a drive up to UCSB from San Diego; shared with my dad and Barry
Mid June: Barry Spacks provides advice and challenges me to writing a poet's story, develop compassion for my main character Heisen the Scientist
Mid July: Ray's Memorial, initializing and finalizing most of the illustrations of the story (1.5 weeks of solid 12-hour-per-day-work)
Mid August: Stall in work effort, first few pages reviewed by Hector, wrote first ten pages by the time of the AAAS Pacific Division Conference, powerpoint presentation received third place in science education division
Mid September: Amidst the chaos and inspiraton of Roadtrip Nation, I hunkered down and hid in Sebastopol to finish writing MLF within a little over a week, at least 6 hours a day of writing. It was brutal, but I was surrounded by the support and friendship and family of Jeri Lyn and Steve and Chris Lods and the small, charming town of Sebastopol!
Now (October): I realize finishing the story is just the beginning of the battle in terms of the writing and paperwork and discussion to follow....

Artist Techniques: Overall very primitie in the scope of complex machines... except for Photoshop. (1) white paper (2) fine point sharpie for sketching outlines (3) some pencil (4) scanner (5) photoshopping (for contrast, coloring in, adding further layers), also known as "microsurgery" on my characters (e.g. moving their eyes and noses and ears and mouthes around)

Major Influences of Art (for this project): Blue Bison (, Jeri lyn Dillin (, Michel Gondry (

Overall Artistic Strategies:

Evolutionary brainwashing in terms of the CUTENESS proportions ::: big head and big eyes, small nose, small body, kind of big feet... the "alien baby" look... I am exceptionally vulnerable since I am a female (fortunately or unfortunately) ... oooh! cutie! cutie! cutie! I just wanna hug and snuggle bunny you!

Irreducible Complexity (Objective Minimalism):
In an obvious way, my artwork (illustration, cartoons) is "minimalist," (simplest possible, identifiable representation of reality) going along the lines of "artfully simplify, but nothing simpler." Another way of stating this technique is "irreducible complexity," simplifying a system to a point if one element is eliminated from the design, then the whole image or system falls apart, like some defunct, overheated, unraveling protein (or a flagellum of a single cell missing a major part).

Now a silly aside issue arises, since "irreducible complexity" applies to my artistic style, does this mean that my work relates to "intelligent design"? Intelligent Design theory states that there is evidence showing some intelligent being or god or whatever has designed reality and irreducible complexity is their staple concept. Honestly, I feel that irreducible complexity is a constructionist concept that belongs to evolutionary theory. It's just that evolutionary theory in America is "competition-oriented" in its mentality whereas other cultures are "cooperation-oriented" in which irreducible complexity most rightfully fits.

Why do I resort to minimalism, in which my dad feels it's "objective" and "universal"? Uh... well... my dad is the most biased human being on this planet... he's my DAD... but other than that... I resort to minimalism because I'M A GRADUATE STUDENT. I HAVE NO BUDGET. I HAVE TIME ISSUES. I HAVE RESOURCES ISSUES. I HAVE EFFICIENCY ISSUES. I don't have time to place anatomical details on the skin of Heisen the Scientist. I can only draw lines that embody his gestalt. In an idealist universe, I would have the manpower of Pixar Studios to animate MLF but... honestly... that's a long shot. When I write fiction, my mind has reached this state of alternate reality... and apparently, it takes a lot of manpower to manifest this form of reality into major motion pictures! Sigh. So, here I am, my brain... paper... pencil... photoshop... and a computer that's currently valued at $400. The Condition of GraduateStudentism is Making the Most of What You've Got! I'll also do my social networking, Roadtrip Nation Part; I intend to meet folks from Pixar and Dreamworks....

Initial Responses of My Artwork: Overall, very positive reviews!

In short, having a bitter, reclusive old geezer as the main character is a very difficult task indeed. But ironically, I already had about three professors tell me, based on the images of Heisen the Scientist, "Hey, that kind of looks like me!" Maybe it's a sign that I invented the universal (or stereotypical) professor cartoon! My father told me that the Scientist in the image seems a little bit "too appealing, too charming," based on my writing description of him, but just a tad. My friend Chris Lods from Sebastopol told me "Your images are unique. They have 'you' written all over them. Most artists mimic other people's work, but your style is your own deal, your own original identity." That's probably the nicest compliment I received from an artist. Barry Spacks looked at my images back in July and he admired the "consistency" of characters across the images. He also stated that my landscape drawing had a Japanese style to it... (whatever works!). Barry had fun with the images, trying to make funny tag lines for each cartoon, as if he were entering captions for The New Yorker weekly contest! A nice guy at the Santa Rosa Kinkos told me that he really enjoyed the "minimalism" of the drawings because most books have complex, multi-layered graphics, and oftentimes even cluttery and unaesthetic.

Another issue that was brought up to me (largely from my cousin-aunt Jeri Lyn) is that the whimsical lightness of my cartoons do not match very well with the darkness and heaviness of my writing style. Granted my artwork contrasts my writing style, but all the better?! Because my writing can be too dark? What? Do people want my stories to be complimented with evil demon goth images? It ruins it. Two extreme opposites can balance a story... potentially.... Strangely enough, I have received this input largely from females, and it seems that most males reading my story actually enjoy the accompaniment of whimsical pictures with my stories.

I am sure I will be getting more feedback on the illustration. Will add more commentary to this blog, soon enough!

1 comment:

Victoria "Stokastika" said...

This is SOOO exciting! I am throwing away stuff! What a concept! I am putting away my final draft sketches in the car... back home.... And now I am requesting to kinkos to make color prints.... I am getting rid of rough draft images to go to Jules... he loves my rough draft work for some reason! He jokes with me saying that one day it will have lots of value and then he can auction it off of ebay---ha ha ha!!!


And so I thought my life was bad... at least I don't have kids!