Along with the vast majority of people on the planet, I have found myself overwhelmed during the pandemic. Aside from the stress of trying to conduct life and parent and teach preschool in-person in this very peculiarly stressful context, I am one of the people whose schedule has become even more busy and intense. All of which preamble is to explain why my creative mojo disappeared.
Art has always been a stress-buster for me but, of course, it is one of life’s little ironies that it is normally when life is at its most demanding that I cannot find time for that therapeutic dose of art. It is also true that the longer time passes when I am not making time for art, the more my creative gears seize up and my creative mojo departs. Finding my way back to art and scraping the rust from those gears is always a slow process. I know from experience that I get creatively crippled if I try too much at once and it just leads to another setback. I, therefore, tend to start small and then build myself back up to a normal level of art time and degree of ambitiousness with a project.
My small start on this occasion involved using Post-It notes as my substrate. It started by accident. I drew doodles on them as “lunch notes” for my kids and stuck them to the fridge door so that they had a surprise. We are a family of movie fans and my two middle sons in particular are obsessive movie nerds. Consequently the drawings on the Post-It notes were inspired by movies we had watched. You might observe from the selection here that there is a particular penchant for the movies of Ingmar Bergman and for mid-century Soviet cinema.
This is Andrei Rublev from the film of the same name.
This one is a take on the Bluray cover of ‘The Ascent’, awkward foreshortening and all.
My 14 year old adores Liv Ullman so I had to draw her.
This duo are Death and Antonius Block from ‘The Seventh Seal’.
Finally this is Flyora from ‘Come and See’. That movie is absolutely one of the best I have ever seen but my goodness it is a hard watch.
I hope this selection illustrates the fact that this very simple activity actually succeeded in getting me back into regular drawing and started greasing those creative gears so that I could recover my atrophying art skills.
Fear ye not, you shall find no spoilers here. Furthermore, this is not a movie review blog. You are safe. Read on if you are so inclined.
So apparently along with much of the population, we Picts went to see ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ this weekend. My husband – the biggest Star Wars nerd in the family by far – had been tempted to do the seven movie marathon at our local cinema but then saw sense so we were all able to go and see if for the first time together. Tickets were pre-ordered, SW themed clothing was donned (except by me) and off we trotted to the cinema.
We arrived an hour early but even then we had to join a lengthy queue to get into our screen. We played Star Wars Top Trumps in the line in order to stave off any boredom and moaning. The atmosphere was lovely. Everyone was excited and was geeking out. A trio of young men in front of us were doing wookiee impressions. I loved that we were sharing this experience with our kids. My husband and I saw the original triology in the cinema when we were wee (I did not see the A New Hope on its original release, of course, since I was actually too wee) and they were a set of movies that stuck with us our entire lives. I loved the movies but am mostly a SW nerd by affiliation. My husband is a SW nut. Our kids were weaned onto SW at an early age. I have video of my second son, as a baby, being able to name SW characters. Of course, what we enthused about were the original triology. The prequels were astoundingly dismal. My husband and I still saw that trilogy in the cinema but we left disappointed every time.
I, therefore, went into the cinema feeling cynical about this new sequel but hopeful nevertheless; I left the cinema feeling relieved and entertained. It was a rollocking fun movie with soundly defined characters, solid performances, great set pieces, and enough references, mirroring and echoes of the original movies to make it part of a cohesive sequel and to satiate the nerdom of we SW fans. There was also an avoidance of exposition (something which made the prequels so snoresome) which in turn creates intrigue for the forthcoming movies. All six of us found lots to dissect, discuss and analyse once we were back in our car (having taken a vow of silence in the cinema lest we accidentally spoil it for someone overhearing us). Best of all, my concerns that my husband might need therapy if the new movie turned out to be rubbish were made irrelevant. All six Pict movie nerds were happy.
Saturday was Free Comic Book Day, an annual event we were introduced to last year. Knowing what was in store for them this year, the boys bounded out of bed. The middle two even dressed themselves appropriately, one in an Avengers t-shirt and one in his homemade Star-Lord t-shirt. Despite neither parent having an interest in comic books or superheroes, my three younger sons are obsessed with that whole culture. Our 9 year old in particular is a walking, talking encyclopaedia of Marvel and DC knowledge. He can talk ad nauseam on any character one dares to mention. It may not intersect with our interests but Mr Pict and I are always happy to promote geekdom in our children so we support their comic book obsessions.
When we arrived at our local comic book store we found that the car park was jam packed and we grabbed the last vacant spot in the adjacent car park. Last year, the tables with the free comic books had been set up inside the store but this year they had set them up beneath a marquee outside the store. Although we arrived just after opening time, a lengthy queue had already formed. The queue was moving swiftly and the event was well organised, however, so it did not take long for the kids to reach the head of the queue and start selecting their three free comic books each. Just as last year, there was a large and diverse collection to choose from so they had no difficulty picking out three each without there being any crossover.
Having done the free bit, the kids then went into the comic book store to peruse their wares. I thought I had seen the place at its most busy during the same event last year but it was even more jam-packed this time. It was great to see so many people milling around from the young to the old, many in costume or at least themed t-shirts. The staff gave my 9 year old props for designing his own Star-Lord t-shirt which had him puffed up like a wee peacock. The three younger boys all follow a comic book series so they picked out the latest editions of each from the shelves. My oldest meanwhile is a collector of Funko Pops so he looked at the massive stack of Pops available in the store. In the end, the only way to compel the kids to leave the shop was to remind them that we had pre-booked cinema tickets and had to go.
The cinema trip was a continuation of our geeky day as we were off to see ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’. To say my kids and husband had high expectations of this movie is a terrible understatement. Sequels can often disappoint. ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, ‘Godfather II’ and ‘Toy Story 2’ are rare exceptions. In my humble opinion, ‘Ultron’ did not surpass the fun and spectacle of ‘Avengers Assemble’ but nor was it a case of “diminishing returns”. Some characters (Hawkeye in particular) were fleshed out more in this movie, promoted from being elevated sidekicks, while others (such as Thor) were pushed to the peripheries. The character relationships were developed further and all the individuals were shown to be working effectively as a team. However, at the same time the movie seemed to be about fractures and splinters appearing in the group which made it a bit less rip-roaring fun. There were stupendous action set pieces and the baddie – pretty much a personification of the internet gone bad – was effective. There was a flabby section, however, where my eyes began to droop and I wasn’t that engaged with all the new characters. But the cinema trip was not about me and the important thing is that my kids were on the edge of their seats throughout, loving every moment of it and lapping up all the comic book geekdom. My 8 year old was sitting next to me and kept leaning over to whisper to facts to me or his predictions for the movie. He was disappointed but forgiving when one of his predictions failed to materialise.
Then we went home to cook and eat a barbecue in the sunshine. My youngest boys decided that they should make “mocktails” for me. They pillaged the fridge for fruit juice and fresh berries and the cupboards for candy and lollipops and constructed several drinks for me to sample. They even made little decorations for each glass. It was sweet, cute and thoughtful of them – even though they used up gallons of juice and punnets of fruit. I am going to have to stock my 1970s cocktail cabinet with actual liquor so that they can learn to make me actual cocktails.
We decided to have a mid week slump in terms of level of activity so we spent the morning at home base so that the kids could enjoy playing indoors and in the vast garden. Then in the afternoon we went to the cinema at Tyson’s Corner Mall. Our oldest son was not bothered about the movie options so he stayed behind with his grandparents and played board games instead. Mr Pict and the two middlies saw ‘Captain America – Winter Soldier’ while I took the youngest to see ‘Rio 2’. He and I had a bit of time to kill after our film ended but before the other film let out so we had a bit of a wander around the mall. He liked testing poufs out in a home décor store called West Elm and he was fascinated by the sushi conveyer belts in an eatery. We also spent some time in the children’s section of Barnes & Noble book store but the thing the littlest Pict loved doing most was just travelling up and down on escalators.
Once the others had joined us, we headed to the Lego store. The kids love to make their own minifigures up so they spent some time doing that. Our 8 year old has read ‘The Hunger Games’ trilogy a few times and is a bit obsessed so he wanted to make minifigures that represented characters from those books. They have a new thing in the lego stores whereby you can hold up a set that contains over 500 pieces to a screen and it then shows a 3D representation of that model. I asked a staff member to demonstrate how it worked and it was brilliant so my 7 year old and I tried it and nothing happened. So the same staff member showed me how it worked again and I tried again and yet again nothing happened. I was going to ask for another demonstration but the 7 year old said that would be embarrassing.
PS Please excuse the quality of the photos – I am not very good at using the camera on my phone but I didn’t have my DSLR on me.