24 December 2013

2013 Christmas Cards

I enjoyed last year's Christmas card concept so much I brought it out again this year. I only managed to knock out eleven sketch cards this year, but I'm hopeful to do more than that next year. For the most part, I stuck to the idea of trying my hand at characters I'd never previously sketched. Another key element from last year that I repeated this year was blindly pairing each card with an envelop, so that I had no idea which card was being sent to which recipient. I didn't want to post these scans until I knew they'd all been received, but by now, one card sent to Germany has been received so I figure most of them should have been delivered. Only a few recipients have confirmed that they've gotten their cards, though I know at least two are out of town and may not have received theirs before departing.

Cheshire Cat
I initially tried to find an illustration by John Tenniel from the original publication of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland that I felt suitable for sketching, but I failed in that search. I elected instead to go with the Cheshire Cat design from Disney's animated movie. I added the dangling bell, which I found an amusing role reversal.

Cookie Monster
You already know of my love for Cookie Monster, Dear Reader, so it should be no surprise that he made it into the pool of subjects for this year's cards. I do feel that his jawline is too elliptical, though. As I look at it now, I also feel that I should have incorporated cookies into this sketch.

Eeyore
It's possible that I'd done another sketch of Eeyore once before, but I can't really say that I know of such an instance. I should have filled in the brim and ball on Eeyore's Santa cap, but otherwise I'm pretty pleased with how this one turned out.

Fone Bone
Fone Bone! I love how guilty he looks here. Like with Eeyore, I should have filled in the brim and ball of his cap to cover up the sketch lines of his head. I'm not sure whoever received this card will recognize Fone, but I adore the character and the design. This was, I think, my second sketch of him (the first being when I put him on my first ever illustrated comic book box in 2012).

Frankenstein's Monster
An unusual choice for a Christmas card, I'll grant you, but I absolutely love the character - specifically, the movie version in Universal's iconic series with Boris Karloff in the role of The Monster (or The Creature, as Karloff preferred). I thought it fun to put a Santa cap on the old boy. I'm not sure this one came out as well as I had hoped. Without the bolts on the neck, I'm afraid it's probably confusing who this is supposed to be since the cap obscures the most iconic part of the design (his flat head and distinctive hairstyle, plus the forehead scar).

Harry Potter
This one is taken from the cover of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I tried to think of something Christmas-y to do with it, but I'd already grown bored of throwing Santa caps on everyone and try as I might, I just could not think of a single thing to do with this one. That aside, I think he turned out fairly well.

Horton
Dr. Seuss is always good for sketch ideas, because his design work is instantly recognizable and usually fairly simple. I'd never sketched Horton before, and I really like this piece. Like Harry Potter, though, I wish I'd thought of something Christmas-y to add.

Ramona Quimby
I'm not gonna lie: this is my favorite. I adored the Ramona books as a young boy, and even named the youngest cat after the precocious character. I originally wanted to borrow from the cover of Ramona Quimby, Age 8 that I had in my youth, but they didn't have that version at the library. I instead lifted this from the cover of Ramona and Her Father, in which the two are down on their knees and elbows trying to stare down the other. I replaced Ramona's dad with a fireplace, and in the process transferred her frustration to impatience with Santa Claus.

Smurfette
I almost went with Papa Smurf, but I wanted to increase the number of female characters represented in this year's assortment of cards. This was taken from the DVD cover of the 2011 live action movie, which is why Smurfette doesn't look quite like her more familiar, original design. Still, I think she came out fairly cute and whimsical and I like this piece.

Snoopy
Like Dr. Seuss, Charles Schultz did some absolutely brilliant design work. I think I may have done a Snoopy sketch once upon a time, but I really can't say. I got a laugh out of this image when I came across it in a collection of Peanuts strips.

Wile E. Coyote, Super Genius
My favorite of the Looney Tunes bunch by far has always been Wile E. Coyote. Curiously, though, I'd never sketched him before this card. I regret not putting tangled Christmas lights in this sketch somewhere, but other than that I think he turned out nicely.

06 December 2013

Let's Talk About Rape Survivors

There's no shortage of reasons or prompts for starting such a discussion. We could pick a high profile case, such as the recently dismissed charges against Florida State University's star quarterback Jameis Winston. USA Network seems to run a weekly marathon of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. We have a seemingly endless parade of politicians saying something asinine, like Todd Akins's notorious "legitimate rape" remark last year.

But more likely, you or someone you know is the one in four women sexually assaulted each year in the United States.

Through social media, I have become connected with several such survivors in recent years. You might suspect that these women are man-hating militants calling for escalating acts of heinous violence in revenge, but you'd be entirely wrong. In fact, I have yet to encounter the revenge fantasy at all.
They want to heal.
Instead of those "they should all be castrated" champions rushing to their aid, they find themselves standing alone. Their situations are used as fodder for lazy storytelling; as the subject of despicable jokes; and perhaps worst of all, they find themselves under suspicion as liars. They become The Little Girl Who Cried "Rape", toxic to be around without trustworthy witnesses, because, you know, they have a "history" of attention-seeking.

What I have heard, time and again, is how crushing it was to speak up at all. This is true even of the most vocal activists I know. Even some of the most candid sharers have only been able to bring themselves to acknowledge that something happened, unable to go any farther into detail than that. It doesn't matter that philosophically, these survivors understand that it was not their fault. They face tremendous scrutiny and disbelief at every turn, and that is their ultimate battle.

Very rarely have I heard a survivor say much of anything at all about the actual assailant. Whenever a news report flashes across my Facebook wall reporting that someone was charged or convicted of sexual assault, there are often people quick to call for castration, the electric chair, etc. None of the survivors I know would bother to say such things. Not because they're altruistic, or possessed of zen master level big picture serenity, but because their real battle isn't with their assailant.
Their real battle is with the culture that puts the victim on trial instead of the assailant.
When the survivors I know have shared their stories, this is where their anger is directed: At the friends who chose to believe the assailant instead of them; at the police they could scarcely make themselves talk to in the first place who dragged their heels; at the ways in which total strangers rationalize defenses for why there's "no one to blame" but the victim for wearing a skirt or having a glass of wine, or for going to a party, or myriad other excuses.

It's even worse for women of color, and for the trans community - both of whom are marginalized inherently anyway. The statistics for either of these groups is staggering. Few believe a white woman who reports an assault; fewer even care when it's a woman of color or a trans woman. Women of color are still plagued by the "Jezebel" accusation dating to the era of slavery, and trans women are derided as not even being "real" women anyway, and since "a man can't be raped", they're obviously not trustworthy.

Sexual assault survivors want, need, and deserve to be believed. That's what they ask of our society. It's not hard to find survivors daring to tell their stories. They're all over Tumblr and Twitter. I won't embarrass anyone I know by citing or linking, but I invite you to take some time to seek out some of them. Read for yourself. Just knowing someone acknowledges and believes their account can help a little bit in their healing process.