I wanted to capture some notes about painting Kevin in Trouble. I hope reflecting on the project will help me become a better painter.
First, I used a sketch to create a structural drawing for the painting. I blogged about the sketch for this project in, Sketch of Kevin. I adjusted the position of the collar and the width of the left arm. I felt the figure was improved, but I’m still stretching my ability to draw in perspective. I need to remember to use lighter pencil marks because I’m finding it harder to erase them at the end when the painting is dry.
Second, I selected colors and painted flat areas. I tried this approach last week and liked the control it gave me. It allowed me to focus on having a good foundation to build upon. I chose warm colors to evoke a feeling of distress. I showed the colors to my wife, and she told me they reminded her of fall and were comforting. I should do thumbnail color sketches next time to find the right combination of colors.
After the watercolors dried, I added form. I moved the source of the light to the other side of the room. That wasn’t my original plan. My reason for moving it was that the best model I could find had the light coming from that side. It wasn’t the bravest move, but I’m not comfortable imagining lighting yet.
“C’mon, it’s easy money,” Emily said. She looked tired of giving Michelle, one of the most attractive girls in her network, reasons to take a job she offered. She found a gap between throw pillows that hid the age of Michelle’s couch and carefully sat down. She crossed her ankles, leaned forward, and rested her forearms on top of her thighs. She fiddled with the cap of her empty water bottle as she waited for Michelle to come up with another reason not to take the job.
“You call that easy money?” Michelle asked. “Because I don’t call it easy money.” Michelle stood across the small room, turned toward a mirror, and checked her hair and face casually. She smoothed out her dress with her delicate hands and frowned at some lint on her dress that no one would ever notice. “Besides, I don’t want to do that anymore. I’m focusing on my acting fulltime now.”
“You need to eat until you land that big part, don’t you?” Emily said. “Look – all you need to do is wear a flirty uniform, serve drinks, and be friendly.”
“Oh yea? Just friendly, huh? And who am I going to be friendly to? Whose party is it going to be?” Michelle asked.
“George Brown’s,” Emily answered.
“Are you kidding me?” Michelle said. “No way I’m going near that guy.”
“What do you have against George Brown?” Emily asked.
“Oh, I’ve got plenty against George Brown,” Michelle said. She sat down in a chair that was next to the sofa where Emily sat. “Two weeks ago, I was on a yacht with Joshua Davis.”
“The Joshua?” Emily asked.
“Yes, the Joshua,” Michelle answered. “I was on his yacht making some of that easy money you’re talking about. We were inside having drinks because we were in the middle of some storm. The ocean was choppy, but everyone was having a good time.”
“So it wasn’t a big party?” Emily asked.
“Nah. It was more of a weekend getaway with his friends and me and some girls,” Michelle answered. “The yacht was big though: it had a crew. Really fancy. So, everyone was laughing about how sick some celebrity got on Joshua’s jet. Then Joshua just told one of his guys to sit down.”
“One of his friends?” Emily asked.
“Hard to tell. He was a quiet type. Didn’t speak unless spoken to. Looked like he could be a body guard or something,” Michelle answered. “And so everyone stopped laughing. It was like we were listening to canned laughter and somebody turned off the TV. Joshua then asked, ‘Kevin, where’s that blue rock I gave you?’ And then no one made a sound. Even I knew to hold my breath. All I heard was white noise outside from the rain and the yacht’s hull slapping the occasional wave.”
“What did the guy say?” asked Emily.
“He swallowed hard and took a while to answer,” Michelle said. “It was like he wasn’t too bright. Like he was really thinking about it. Then he said, ‘I sold it to George Brown so I could retire someday.’ The room was so quiet. Nobody looked at Joshua, but everyone looked at Joshua: you know what I mean? I was really getting scared, but I couldn’t go anywhere. The room had this weight in it. It felt like I would die if I moved without Joshua saying I could.”
“Wow,” Emily said.
“Yeah, I didn’t know someone could do that to a room,” Michelle said. “So then Joshua said, ‘Who said you could retire?’ Kevin’s face turned white. Joshua started laughing and looked around the room at the other guys. So we all started laughing. I mean; it wasn’t really funny, but I was just so scared. You know?”
“You poor girl,” Emily said.
“Then Joshua stood up, grabbed Kevin by the collar, and pulled him up and out of his chair,” Michelle said. “He dragged the guy across the room and through the door leading out onto the deck of the yacht. When Joshua opened the door, the sound of the rain outside drowned out every sound inside. It looked pitch black outside to me. It was just crazy for him to go out there and drag Kevin out there too as the boat heaved and waves crashed onto the deck from the storm. Then one of the guys tried to say to another without me hearing, ‘Did I just see Joshua drag Kevin out?’ And the other guy was like, ‘I wouldn’t believe it if I wasn’t right here.’ I didn’t know what was going on. I just tried not to cry.”
“Where were the other girls?” Emily asked.
“They were with some guys on the other side of the yacht,” Michelle answered. “Joshua liked me, so he kept me around most of the time. I thought that was great since he was paying the bill, you know? But I didn’t want to be there right then. I asked one of Joshua’s friends if I could go be with the other girls, but he just shook his head. He was probably right. No one moved from where they were – not even to close the door. Then Joshua emerged from the dark and walked back into the room. He was soaked, of course. He grabbed an ice bucket where we’d had a champagne bottle earlier and stuck one of his hands in it. He told us to have a good time, and then went to his room. I didn’t see him again the rest of the trip: not even when we got back to port.”
“I still haven’t heard what you’ve got against George Brown,” Emily said.
“Really? Joshua Davis, George Brown, the Boogeyman – they kill people,” Michelle answered. “I’m not going anywhere near scary people anymore.” Michelle stood up and walked back to the mirror to look at herself. She combed through her hair with her hands and straightened a necklace she wore. “Do you think Joshua was mad about the blue rock or the guy wanting to retire?”
“Oh, he was mad about both,” Emily said. She leaned back into the couch letting the throw pillows gather around her as she sunk in. “He called it a rock, but it looks like raw benitoite.”
“Like what?” Michelle asked.
“It looks like a blue gemstone called buh – nee – toh – aight,” Emily said. “Look it up on your phone.”
“But it’s not a bunny toe thing?” Michelle asked. “What is it then? And how much was it worth that he got enough money to buy his way out of the bad business he was in?”
“Well, I heard it’s not just some fancy jewel,” Emily said.
“Go on,” Michelle said.
“I heard it has powers,” Emily said.
“Shut up!” Michelle said. “What powers?”
“You touch people and you get their strength,” Emily said.
“Like, where do you touch people?” Michelle asked. “Do you touch them with it? Or do you say some magic words?”
“I don’t know,” Emily said. “But it makes sense when you think about it, right? That guy Kevin was muscle for Joshua. And he always had that blue jewel with him. He had a reputation of being unstoppable. Tough and loyal, but not too bright. That’s probably why George Brown was able to get the jewel from him.”
“You heard all this where?” Michelle asked.
“Joshua Davis mentioned it when he, um…” Emily hesitated. She leaned her head back and looked up at the ceiling.
“When what, Emily?” Michelle asked. Emily swallowed and straightened her posture. She made eye contact with Michelle.
“When he told me to tell you to steal the jewel back from George Brown,” Emily said.
I found it on the worst night of my life. That night, I was dragged out of sleep to flee from my home. I was tortured. Everything I had was destroyed. When I was rescued, I was only wearing a diaper and this gaudy bracelet.
The night I found it, I was woken hours before dawn by the sound of a woman screaming. It came from outside and was muffled, but I could tell she was nearby. The woman screamed familiar names: the name of my male neighbor and of their children. ‘Get out!’ she screamed and ‘Hurry!’ Her panicked screams contrasted with the beautiful yellow glow outside of my window. It was as if the sun had risen and its light was diffused by my curtain as it entered my room. The light did not come from a sunrise: it came from my burning neighborhood.
I knew my house was next. I had to get out of it. I thought about what I would take with me. I lived alone. I did not have pets. I did not like to have things. All I had was my own skin, a laptop for my livelihood, and a gaudy bracelet I acquired from a shady character.
My cousin and I had been browsing at a market in Mexico City. A handsome man had approached us and, with a charming accent, had asked us if we would allow him to show us a jewel worthy of our beauty. We had pretended to listen to his description while surreptitiously enjoying his attention.
“Buy it, Carol,” my cousin had urged. “It’s not fake. It looks like he stole it from a museum. There might even be a reward. Or you could sell it for a lot of money.” So, I had been hoodwinked into buying something I did not want. I had paid a lot, but less than he had asked for. He had seemed happy to be rid of it.
I had not had any particular feelings about the transaction at the time. I had just hoped either the metal the bracelet was made of or the green stone encased in it would be valuable. But then I had to sneak it out of Mexico and into the U.S. It was then that I had felt like a part of corruption and a thief. I would not sell it or get it appraised: I would keep it in the safe in my home office hoping to forget about it.
I heard the roar of the fire outside as I walked into my home office to retrieve my two belongings. I heard propane tanks explode. I easily found my laptop on my desk. When I tried to open my safe, the sounds of danger outside made me ham-fisted and I had trouble turning the knob. I couldn’t even remember the combination. I tried everyone’s birthday: my mother’s, my father’s, my sister’s, and my own. At last; it was the numbers from my closest cousin’s month, day, and year of birth that opened the safe. As its door clicked open, the smoke alarms in my house went off.
Back when I had shopped for a home, I had fallen in love with my house because it had a porch that wrapped all the way around it. I had really enjoyed that porch over the years. I had watched it rain in the afternoon under its protection. I had walked barefooted on its cool wooden deck drinking my coffee. I had watched the sun rise and set while rocking in a chair my parents had given me as a birthday present. The deck I loved so much burned all the way around the house and trapped me inside.
I went upstairs to try to jump out of a window. The house was filled with smoke, so I scuttled close to the ground and held my breath as much as I could. I could not see, but I could have found my way through my house with my eyes closed.
When I found a window, it would not open. I broke the glass with the closest thing I could find. I grabbed some pillows from a bed beside the window and stuffed my laptop between them for its protection. I then tossed it out of the window as far as my strength would allow. I was also going to throw the bracelet. Instead, I put it on and protected my wrists from broken glass as I pushed against the window frame and climbed out.
I stood on the roof of my porch and searched for a place to jump to. Once I found it, I changed my posture to get ready to jump. The shingles must have melted because I slipped on one. I fell and my body hit the roof causing it to collapse.
I found myself burning in the middle of a fire. Flames were all around me. I was in excruciating pain. I flopped like a fish on land trying to move my body away from burning material, but my movements were ineffective because there was no place to go. I hoped I would pass out and it would be over.
But the torment was not ending. I decided to get myself out. I tried to use my hands to stand, but the ground was covered with burning materials. I finally steeled myself to endure the pain, got up, and pushed through the burning materials that were once my home. I walked over a red and black ground feeling my bare feet burn.
Once I got out of the flames, the pain stopped. I looked at my hands, and they were unharmed. My clothes and hair had completely burned off, but I could not feel burns on my face or see burns anywhere on my body. I was going to take the bracelet off, but it was cool when I touched it. I also had no better way to carry it.
There was smoke all around me as my neighborhood continued to burn. The wind blew smoke and the heat of the fire at me. I stumbled over the pillows I had thrown out the window. I used a pillow case to make a diaper to cover my bottom. Then, I held a pillow and my laptop against my chest to cover my top.
I ran down the center of the street searching for a way out of the neighborhood. The most open place I could think of was a golf course that was a couple of miles away. I did not know what else to do or where else to go, so I walked in its direction.
On the way to the golf course, a group of firefighters emerged from the smoke. They led me to safety. As I sat by the firetruck, a firefighter told me I had made the right choice in getting out immediately without stopping to get anything. Most of my neighbors had not been able to escape.
This is one of the images I was considering for a story I wrote back in March, The Cybernetic . Even though I didn’t use the image, I thought it would be fun to paint it.
I used blue and orange complimentary colors to evoke excitement. The analogous colors in the background are supposed to suggest both an explosion and the forward motion of the character. I omitted the effect of the character’s foot striking the ground, but the pencil marks are slightly visible.
As you know, I am new to drawing and painting. I feel guilty about having subjected you to some of the images I have posted. I pushed the post button while thinking, “It’s not that bad.”
And you should see some of the drawings and paintings of people that I have kept to myself. Ugh! With people, it is too easy to tell when there is something wrong with their faces and their bodies.
Although this woman looks like she failed to finish her mud run in front of her ailing grandmother, she’s the best person I have painted so far. She looks like a woman who is sad and young [she survived an alien attack, but her friend did not]: all things I was trying for.
This might be the only normal city left in the world. We have challenges; like access to food, water, and medicine – but life can almost be normal. Children can grow. There are people to educate them. A person can even fall in love with the possibility of a future.
The rest of the world might not be like this. As far as we know, it is all in ruins. People hide in the ruins like roaches. They hide from the wasps. That is what we call the aliens who have tried to exterminate us. When they crawl out of their ships, they look like human sized wasps. They are terrifying.
We might all be gone by now if it weren’t for the hero, the Cybernetic. When I was a kid, my mother told me stories about him. He was the good guy, the aliens were the bad guys, they fought, and he saved the day in the end. When I was old enough, she told me a different story.
When my mother was young, she went to graduate school for engineering. She wanted to work with communications systems. She met another student from a different part of the engineering program, mechanical engineering. His name was William. According to her, he was brilliant and obsessed with his work; but he dropped everything for her when she was around. It made her feel special, and she fell in love with him before she realized it. Her picture of her future back then included two things: research and William.
The university was cutting edge in communications. My mother was there for space vehicle communications research, but there was another part of the program the school liked to show off. They had built a system that sent messages from Earth into space. It used a stronger signal than any other system before it. Unfortunately, it worked.
My mother told me the aliens must have decided Earth was infected by humans. The first thing they did when they arrived was destroy the university that was sending the signal. They leveled it. William survived by climbing into a robotic suit he built as a part of his research. It saved him from being crushed by the building falling down around him. Mother survived by sprinting into a fallout shelter built during the Cold War, but she was trapped in it. She was running out of air when William found her. He used the strength from the suit to remove rubble from her exit. The power in the suit was depleted by the time he was done moving things out of the way, but first responders arrived and took my mother and William to safety. At least they thought it was safety.
My mother said that whatever engineers from the school survived were taken to a military base. They were put to work figuring out how to fight the aliens and connect us with the rest of the world. The aliens had cut off all of our communications. My mother worked on restoring them. She didn’t know what William was doing. He wasn’t allowed to tell her. She didn’t really care as long as she got to see him.
Just when my mother thought she had found a way to communicate with others, the aliens attacked the base. My mother said that the base had our best defenses, but they were no match for the aliens. After the aliens got rid of everyone outside, they stormed the buildings. It was the first time she saw them out of their spaceships. The wasps crawled through the halls and easily broke down doors. Anyone witnessing the assault probably tried to wake themselves from the nightmare. The alien carbines turned everyone they shot into dust instantly. Some would say mercifully.
My mother said that she hid in a closet. When the door suddenly opened, she kept her eyes closed. She waited for the instant nothingness. Instead, something powerful picked her up and carried her out. She tried to look back as she was carried, but she could only look at the ground and the footprints the thing carrying her left in the black dust that covered the floors. She began to cry. Then, she heard William’s voice as if it were coming through a speaker telling her that everything was going to be alright.
After carrying my mother to the cover of a nearby forest, William told her that he had been helping the military engineer soldier enhancements. He built advanced suits of armor, but the systems were too complicated. No matter how well trained, one person couldn’t control their movement, defenses, and weapons at the same time. He told her they had also developed plans for larger vehicles that would be a match for the alien ships and could be run by human crews. But before they could build them, they had to be able to defend themselves from wasp soldiers.
Mother told me that William had found one solution to the problem of operating the suits. He showed her. He was wired into the suit. He told her that when the wasps attacked, he was testing the suit’s movement system.
The suit ran out of power as they talked. She asked him to climb out of it so they could keep moving through the woods until they found people. He said that he could not. It took a team of surgeons to plug him in. To control the suit, his nerves had to be attached to all of the suit’s sub-systems: head, arms, legs, fingers – everything that had to move. When my mother asked him why he had done it, he said it was the only thing he knew how to do to protect her.
The wasps found them. William told her to run. When she said she couldn’t leave him, he said he would catch up using the suit’s emergency power. My mother ran. She said that when she looked back to see how far behind her he was, the wasps were shooting at him. He was blocking the shots they fired at her. Instead of turning him to dust, the suit absorbed the shots.
When the wasps’ carbines did not take William down, the aliens swarmed around him. He brawled with them. She said she thought for a moment that he might win, but there were too many. Even as the suit appeared to run out of power, it took all of the wasps there to beat him. My mother said that when she looked back for the last time, the wasps were tearing him apart.
My mother did not want to admit to me that she was devastated, but I could tell. She stopped telling me the story at that point. She didn’t tell me how she escaped the wasps or how she was saved. That was not the point of her story. Her story was not about action, it was about romance. In her story, the girl and the boy did not end up together.
I don’t know when or how my mother moved on, but I’m here. I hope my mother is as happy as she can be the way things are. I’d like to think that my mother and father love each other as much she and William. She’s the only one that knows.
Before I heard my mother’s story, I watched the Cybernetic defend our city. I saw the armor absorb the shots from the wasps. I didn’t question how he could fight off the wasps when no one else could. I never wondered why he protected us instead of some other city. Now, I wonder who drives the suit.