45 degrees off

Seeing the same thing from a different angle.

Monthly Archives: September 2011

Graphic Novels Keep a Disabled Marine Reading

I remember my ninth grade English Literature teacher. I remember her well. We didn’t see eye-to-eye on much of anything. She had some very firm ideas about what was literature, as well as what was not. She was rather cold and emotionless in the classroom, and wrote on our papers with a green pen. We usually called this “bleeding on our papers” because most teachers wrote with red ink. I insisted my English teacher was a Vulcan, and that explained why she “bled” green.

I understand as an adult that she may have felt she needed to be picky about what we “should” and “should not” read for book reports because she was trying to open students up to reading things they wouldn’t have chosen on their own. That wasn’t a very good tactic to take with me. I’d read just about anything printed on paper, with the exception of biographies and romance novels (I have since learned to enjoy biographies), and I was almost sure to read something I’d been told not to read. I do think, though, that some of her ideas were personal. She wasn’t someone who would have accepted comics/graphic novels as “literature”, regardless of the story.

The funny thing about that is there was one project I very much enjoyed that year. We were to split ourselves into pairs and work together on a project of our choosing to create a piece of art based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles. I grabbed the best artist in my class to be my partner, and he agreed to my idea. While everyone else was making shadow boxes and dioramas, I rewrote the story so that it would be easier for small children to read while my project partner drew the illustrations.

We adapted it into a comic book. I wish I’d realized at the time what we were doing. I could have enjoyed feeling like we were “getting back” at the teacher in some way.

Recently, my husband has started re-reading the graphic novels in our house. Neither of us is a huge comic fan, but we love good stories wherever they are found. There are some stories I can’t imagine being told as well any other way.  The most interesting thing, to me, about my husband doing this is that he’s managing to read books at a reasonable pace this way.

My husband, you see, is a disabled Marine. He is in constant pain, and the medications he’s been prescribed only make the pain more tolerable. He has to lay down for a half hour or more several times throughout a day, and the medication makes it very easy for him to fall asleep within a few minutes of laying down. He loves to read! We sometimes joke about how marrying me means he got all my books, too. He can’t read if he can’t stay awake, though.

The graphic novel format is making it easier for him to stay awake while he’s laying down. Instead of a page full of print, he’s seeing the words in shorter blocks that are positioned in different places on a page, and there’s all those pictures! Any comic reader can tell you the pictures aren’t there just to look pretty. You’ll miss parts of the story if you don’t pay attention to the art. This seems to be keeping my husband’s brain more active and alert than reading pages of nothing other than text.

Let me be clear about this: My husband is not an unintelligent man. He is, without the pain and medication, perfectly capable of reading and comprehending works that even my ninth grade English teacher would have recognized as “real literature”. He’s disabled. Comics and graphic novels are allowing him to keep reading.

This is part of why organizations like the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund are important. Comics and graphic novels, and those who sell them, still get treated different than volumes of pure text. The genre is still treated like these works aren’t “real literature”, and therefore aren’t given the same protections in many cases. I have personally heard some people talk about mature comics and graphic novels as if there’s no reason for them to exist because they’re “inappropriate for children”, implying that only children should read comics.

I want this art protected from people who have closed their minds and want to force other’s minds shut, as well. I want the work of writers and artists to be respected as an important part of our culture. How much history would have been lost to us if it had not been for the stories and works of art that outlasted the cultures that gave birth to them? If we want future generations to see us as people who valued ideas and creativity, we have to give comics as much respect as we give other works.

I also want my husband to have books to read. And others like him. I don’t know if there are any organizations that focus getting comics and graphic novels for the disabled and hospitalized. If you know of any, please leave a comment. If there aren’t any, maybe there should be.


La Bella Muerte

I declared the start of Zombie Season several weeks ago. Oh, sure… zombies are there all year long, just waiting until you relax so they can eat your brain. The closer it gets to Halloween, though, the more I think about zombies.

I’ve been working on a zombie portrait. I needed to take a break from it, but I didn’t want to let my focus stray too far from the Halloween season. No problem! I’d just draw a nice, creepy skull. Like zombies, I think about them more around Halloween but they stay popular year-round with some folks. What I ended up with isn’t exactly a creepy Halloween skull.

La Bella Muerte by K. Martinez

I love working in this style! It’s very relaxing. My usual way of working is to either have the house quiet or put on instrumental music. I have trouble focusing on words that I’m hearing as well as the piece I’m working on. When I work in this style, I can let my mind rest. It’s a good time to put on some music with vocals or listen to a podcast. I get lost in the repetitive patterns and nearly always end up surprised by just how things turn out in the end.

I saw early on with this piece that it could be a bit like the sugar skulls for Día de los Muertos – the Day of the Dead. It’s an observance that has never played a significant role in my life, but I see a lot of beauty in the traditions. I can also see this piece as being something like a tribal mask, but it’s the sugar skull inspiration that really resonates with me so I’ve titled the piece La Bella Muerte – the beautiful death.

The “black on white” isn’t going to work for everyone. I know some of you will insist that a skull should be white. I was thinking of you! This piece is available as either “black on white” or “white on dark”. I say “dark” because the backgrounds can be customized in many cases, so you might choose navy blue or a rich dark green. You won’t find all the same options in both cases, but most things are available with either choice. I try not to judge what people may or may not want to buy my work on. At the same time, I don’t want to put it on something where it just doesn’t fit well.

La Bella Muerte is available as prints from both Society6 and Fine Art America. I encourage folks to look at pieces on Fine Art America even if you’re not looking to buy or if the prices there are a bit high for you. I like the square-by-square full resolution previews they have. It’s fun to get a close view of different areas in a piece.

You can also find this piece in my Black and White Art gallery on RedBubble. Both versions are available as prints, cards, and on shirts. The “black on white” option is also available as a die-cut sticker

Both versions of La Bella Muerte are availble from Graphic Content by Rosa Amarilla on a variety of items. Mugs, postage stamps, cards, shirts, iPhone cases, necklaces, keychains… there are a lot of choices! If nothing else, stop by to see the picture of my cat at the top of the page. She’s investigating the mug with art she was the model for on it.

Welcome to the new place!

I’ve never moved an entire blog before. It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it might be, though I also hadn’t realized just how little I’d managed to blog at the old place. Only 23 posts since March. I always knew I wasn’t posting as often as I’d intended, but I thought certainly I’d written more than that!

It reminds me a bit of when I was a teenager and wrote a letter to Stephen King to ask him about a character in one of his books. I received a pre-printed postcard in the mail in response. It explained that he’d realized years before that he could either write back to each fan who sent him a letter, or he could write more books. Since he was only getting fan mail because he wrote books, the card explained, he hoped that his fans wouldn’t mind too much that he’d chosen to keep doing that.

When I find time to write, I often spend it drawing. If I don’t draw, I’ll have nothing to write about.

Still, I would like to do more writing about my work. About what inspires me, which artists I’m paying attention to, and why I feel art matters more than most folks seem to realize. I’m comfortable enough with WordPress that I hope I’ll be doing more of that than I have done previously, even if I still don’t do quite as much of it as I’d like to.

You will find that the comments are closed on the posts I moved over. That’s because comments will close two weeks after something is posted and I backdated everything to keep some order in the chaos. I welcome discussion even if I don’t always find the time to be an active part of it. It’s no secret that I’d like for people to buy my art. It’s also very important to me that people see it, and that it has some effect on them, even if they never buy it.

Oh… I didn’t tell the end of the story about my letter to Stephen King! The card had been inserted into a typewriter, and there was a P.S. typed at the bottom with an answer to my question.

I may be busy, but I like to think I’m still approachable.


Google+ or Facebook?

I’ll be more active on Google+ now that it’s open to the public than I have been up until this point. If you’d like to add me to an art circle, please do so. You can find my Google+ profile here: http://gtPL.US/kmartinez.

I will still be maintaining my official Facebook page, at least for the forseeable future, but I intend to post less there as I post more on Google+. I’m currently working on a zombie portrait that I’ve been posting updates about on Facebook. This may be the last project I do regular Work in Progress updates for there.