Saturday, December 27, 2014

Have you ever felt frustrated with your work as a creative professional or hobbyist?

I feel like that all the time. It seems that my best efforts don't take my work to the level that I want it to be. I have no illusions about my talents (or the lack of it, rather ;-) ) So why do I keep going? Years ago, a former art university classmate gifted me with some words of encouragement and wisdom at a time when I was disappointed with the quality of my work and frustrated at my progress.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Dragons of the Oil Sea

dragons guarding desert island
In support of a former art school classmate presently imprisoned in deteriorating conditions. See report: Saudi Princesses Claim King Is Confining and Drugging Them.

Who is on the island? (From left to right)
  • Gala the labrador - She passed away this year after she and her human companions (Jawaher and Sahar) underwent a prolonged period of food deprivation. You can see Gala's 'before starvation' and 'after starvation' photos here.
  • Jawaher Al Saud- youngest sister of artist/activist Sahar Al Saud. She and Sahar are held captive in a seaside compound while their 2 sisters, Hala and Maha, are imprisoned at other locations. Go to campaign for the release of the four women.
  • Sahar Al Saud - a painter and sculptor who is passionate about Saudi human rights. For months, she and Jawaher have been surviving under house arrest by distilling water and scavenging for food from the sea. Read her interview with
  • Tosca the cat - beloved companion to Sahar and Jawaher . Tosca passed away in 2009, leaving behind Gala the Labrador, Gracia the German Shepherd and Jade, another cat. Gala has since died.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Parallel experiences in Kazakhstan and Navajo Land

While working on Ged the Goatherd, I looked at real world societies to help give form to the people of Gont in Ursula Le Guin's fantasy world of Earthsea.

Did some reading on Kazakh people in Central Asia and the Dine (Navajo) people in North America and found interesting similarities in the history of these two very different regions:

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Ged the Goatherd

boy carrying goat kid

Fanart for Ursula Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea. The protagonist Sparrowhawk (aka Ged) spent his childhood on the island of Gont.

Real world cultural inspirations I used for envisioning Gontish clothing styles: Navajo, Tibetan, Uzbek, Kazakh.
Reasons for looking to these particular cultures:
  • Presence of a sheep herding/goat herding economy, which is practiced on Gont.
  • Use of clothing elements mentioned in the Earthsea Cycle's description of Gontish people, such as jerkins, aprons and ruffles. (Not necessarily common or native to each of the societies mentioned, but between all of them, there is the use of such items, or something pretty close, in traditional clothing.)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Crossing the water on the backs of beasts

Filipino, Malaysian and Japanese tales about a small clever animal who tricks dangerous creatures into serving as its "bridge" :

RegionSmall Trickster vs Big PredatorsTale
MalaysiaMouse-deer tricks CrocodilesSang Kancil, startled by a crocodile on a river bank, talks his way out of danger by claiming to be taking a crocodile census on the order of the king. When the crocodiles line up on the surface of the water, Sang Kancil crosses to the other bank by hopping from one crocodile's back to another's.1,2

The animal kancil, pronounced 'kanchil', is also known as the lesser mouse-deer or lesser Malay chevrotain.3
PhilippinesMouse-deer tricks CrocodilesPilandok wanted to cross a deep river, so he calls out to the crocodiles, pretending that he needed to count them. After stepping across their backs to the other side, Pilandok mocks them and flees.4,5

The animal called pilandok is also known as the Philippine mouse-deer or the Balabac chevrotain.6
JapanHare tricks WanizameA hare wanted to cross from an island of Oki to Cape Keta, so it lied to a clan of wanizame about counting them to see whose clan was bigger.7 (Wanizame are variously interpreted as sharks, soft-shell turtles, or crocodiles.8)

Although the hare managed to cross the sea by stepping on the backs of these creatures, the trickster of this tale fared much worse than its counterparts in Southeast Asia.9


Sunday, July 27, 2014


mechanized crocodile
Inspired by the East Timorese myth of "The Boy and the Crocodile".

Here are 3 different versions of the story:
This is the third and final piece in the giant robots series. Many thanks to the kind friends who assisted with critique.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Henna Art from Around the World

Been listening to Rango, and their rendition of Henna Night is stuck in my head. :-) Hence the inspiration for this post:
henna-decorated foot in Morocco
henna-painted hands in India
Click thumbnails to view larger images on source pages.

Some African and Asian cultures that decorate brides (and, in some cases, grooms) with henna:

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Cheetah Weeping

Inspired by the Zulu folktale concerning the origin of the black lines running down a cheetah's face from its eyes. These lines were the tear tracks of a mother cheetah weeping for her lost cubs. The young cheetahs had been stolen by a hunter who wanted to train them to hunt for him.

When the mother's grief came to the attention of an old man from the hunter's village, the village elders returned her cubs and expelled the hunter, who was regarded as "lazy" and "dishonorable" for desiring to hunt in an "untraditional" way.

The moral condemnation for keeping hunting cheetahs is certainly not universal. Listed here are a few (not all) of the peoples that had tamed cheetahs for hunting:

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Sand painting in Asia and North America

Click thumbnails to view larger images on source pages.
Sand painting in Millicent Rogers Museum
Navajo sand painting
Rangoli in Chennai
Indian kolam

Some cultures that practice impermanent sand painting:

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Inspired by (but NOT claiming to be an accurate representation of) the accessories of the Iban people of Borneo.

Check out the beauty and complexity of the marik empang, a beaded shoulder covering worn by Iban women in traditional garb.

Many thanks to the kind friends who assisted with references and critique.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Use names and true names in our world and Earthsea

Fans of Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea fantasy series are familiar with the concept of true names and use names: All things have a 'true name'. People are generally given a use name at birth, the name they use in public life. When a person comes of age, his/her true name is revealed to him/her by a magic practitioner,1 but this true name is generally kept secret and only shared with trusted individuals.

Anyway I find it interesting that the concept of private 'true names' in Earthsea has its parallels on our mundane world of Earth. Anthrolopologist Theodora Kroeber, mother of Ursula Le Guin,2 wrote: "A California Indian almost never speaks his own name, using it but rarely with those who already know it, and he would never tell it in reply to a direct question."3

The Tohono O'odham people who inhabit Arizona and northern Mexico also have an Earthsea-like naming tradition. Karen Liptak wrote in Indians of the Southwest: "In times past, a Tohono O'odham mother and her new baby would stay in a special house for a month after the birth. Then a sunrise ceremony was held, at which the medicine man gave the baby a name that had come to him in a dream. This name was never spoken. Instead, nicknames were used."4

  1. "The Rule of Names" on wikipedia
  2. Theodora Kroeber on wikipedia
  3. Ishi apparently wasn't the last Yahi, according to new evidence from UC Berkeley research archaeologist
  4. Karen Liptak, Indians of the Southwest, p52

Friday, January 24, 2014

Lattices (and other parallels between Qing-era China and Mughal-era India)

Inspired by latticework designs from China and Mughal India:
Profile of young Qing Dynasty official

For beardless versions of these gentlemen, see Portrait of an Official and Portrait of a courtier. :-)

Some random (or not so random) parallels between the Qing period (1644-1912) in China and the Mughal period in India (1526-1857):
  • Both dynasties were established by non-indigenous rulers:
    • The Mughal Dynasty was established on the Indian subcontinent by Turko-Mongols from Uzbekistan.1
    • The Qing Dynasty was established in China by Jurchens from Manchuria (present-day Northeastern China).2
  • The capitals of both the Qing and the Mughals experienced repeated slaughter of their populations, looting of cultural treasures and destruction of exquisite architecture: