There is a thought I hear quite often. It’s presented with such confidence that those who say it seem to think the matter settled. This is how it goes: humans are most human when they surrender to their appetites and abandon all to instinct. To resist one’s impulse is to deny one’s self. Remarkably, this sounds similar to the way we understand animals to be.
Rather than further this notion–that to be human we must be animals, I would like to present its opposite. Humans do not need to aspire to be animals, rather, animals should aspire to be more like humans, and what better way than to drink tea with clothes on?
I have created a series of paintings of animals drinking tea. The paintings themselves are done in tea and can be purchased from my etsy shop. Because the acids in tea tend to prematurely age paper, I sealed the drawing with a couple coats of varnish and painted on top of it in order to increase the painting’s archival qualities.
I would say that the color of tea is quite delicate and very pretty. However, it’s unruly. The tea doesn’t layer easily and doesn’t like to dry in the middle places. It tends to build up on the edges, which can be frustrating. Still, I enjoyed this experiment and the paintings are nice conversation pieces. If you should have one of those conversations, I would recommend that you have it over a nice cup of tea like a civilized human (and not over coffee like a savage).
“If you are cold, tea will warm you. If you are too heated, it will cool you. If you are depressed, it will cheer you. If you are excited, it will calm you.” ~Gladstone, 1865
“I’ve never had a cup of coffee in my life. I can’t even remain in the same room with coffee.” –Mark Helprin
This past weekend I had the privilege to meet a lot of young artists in West Virginia at an illustration event hosted by Story Warren. I took the opportunity to speak about the unity of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty and walked participants through an illustration for a forthcoming novel by Sam Smith (not to be confused with Sam Sith, a Star Wars villain).
Alissa and I also enjoyed hanging out with Sam and his wonderful family. They were kind to snap this photo of me and my pregnant wife (six-months!) against the backdrop of the West Virginia mountains. I, however, was not kind enough to stop talking while they took the photograph.
Small sketch in the corner of my sketchbook.
Here is an illustration I’m working on for upcoming Storywarren post.
Below is the watercolor.
Below is the digitally enhanced version.
Here are some links to previous Storywarren posts: Time for Timelessness, and Rebel Without a Qualm: The Counterculture of Gratitude, and Member of the Family.
Here’s the final:
And here’s a link to the post: storywarren
by Robert Louis Stevenson
The rain is falling all around,
It falls on field and tree,
It rains on the umbrellas here,
And on the ships at sea.
This poem (written for children) beautifully exhibits the impulse to treat children as humans with experiences that are universal to mankind. The rain described here seems to be a universal binder that unites a child in a park to the more romantic idea of ships at sea.
I think this short poem displays simplicity without stumbling into triviality. It’s a good benchmark.
Courtesy of the World Wide Web, I have found some cards I did a few years ago. I thought these were only supposed to be for use online, but I guess somewhere along the line they made these two into actual cards, complete with foil stamping. Super!
I’m going to the local SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference in Charlotte for the weekend. Looking forward to meeting up with other illustrators in the Carolinas. Oh, and here’s a spread from a long-awaited nearly completed project.
For those of you nice enough to wonder about the pixie-book progress, let me just say that it is nearing completion. I’ve had a good bit of work lately, but it has taken some time away from the book. Here is part of a drawing before I hit it with photoshop sauce.
Check back for updates.
This picture is a digitally souped-up version of a small watercolor piece I did recently for a baby shower my wife attended. Initially, I intended to do Little Red Riding Hood, but the story seemed a little threatening. A little girl gets accosted by a wolf in the woods and later finds her grandmother eaten up. It didn’t seem a perfect fit for an infant baby girl.
So … I changed it to Little Pink Riding Hood and wrote this rather benign poem that we stuffed in the picture frame. Maybe in a few years they’ll open the frame and find the poem. The original painting in the frame can be seen on the Zach Franzen Illustration Facebook page.
Here’s the poem:
Little Pink Riding Hood
The tale of the girl in the hood that was red
Is known to us all. Though the tale left unsaid
Is that of the girl in a hood that was pink.
The answer for this is quite simple I think..
This girl wasn’t found by a wolf in the woods
Nor troubled while taking her grandma baked goods.
She skipped and she sang on the road without stress.
Her walk in the woods met with perfect success
For there on the path strode a woman in white.
Twas grandma who laughed and said “Oh what a sight!
Your basket looks grand and seems quite full of bread,
And mine contains cheese for I thought in my head
To carry some cheese to your lovely homestead,
But sit in the road and let’s eat here instead.”
They had a fine time with warm bread and cold cheese
And pink riding hood said “why thank you” and “please.”
This innocent tale is routinely o’erlooked
By well-meaning people who find themselves hooked
On stories of danger and tales of suspense
Where picnics and cheer make no good earthly sense..
Perhaps if one day you get bored with the thrill
Of monsters and danger then maybe you will
Return to this story where grandma and child
Enjoyed a fun meeting and ate in the wild.
A slender calico cat named Jack
Sashays like any fine quadruped,
But folks who notice him seem to lack
An obligation to see him fed.
.At noon the calico finds some things
Behind a crate in a garbage bin:
A cane, a hat, and a tie that clings
Around his neck underneath his chin.
.His cane provokes him to stand up straight
And step precisely with both hind feet.
This action makes him seem quite first-rate
To every passerby in the street..
Before too long children come with food
Some chicken, fish, and a plate of cream
This brightens Calico Jackson’s mood
And young ones giggle and clap and scream.
.At last we understand why good Jack
Should walk exclusively on two feet.
Though difficult to develop the knack
Once done, he gets to eat luncheon meat..
So now if ever a stately cat
Comes cross your path on grassy lane
Consider giving him food, a hat
A fancy tie, and a walking cane.
Give a cat a fish, you feed him for a day
Teach a cat to dress, you feed him for a lifetime.