three important objects

I post a lot of photography here, and I thought at least some of you might be interested in seeing three of my motley collection of (mostly secondhand) cameras.  I recently bought some neoprene “Hood Hats” from Op/Tech to replace fiddly traditional lens caps on three of my most used lenses.  My original plan for these photographs was to use them to illustrate reviews of these excellent accessories, but I was not entirely pleased by the exposures. So I ended up processing them in a more artsy way then I generally do and making a blog post out of them.

From left to right:

  • The Little Monster (Fuji X-M1 /27mm f/2.8), wearing a Hood Hat PK Micro and a lanyard I made out of blaze orange and black houndstooth paracord.
  • Mischief (Fuji X-T10), with the Fuji 35mm f/1.4 on board, wearing a Hood Hat Micro in Mossy Oak camo and a limited edition blaze orange DSPTCH Standard Sling strap.
  • Kilo (Pentax K-5iis) with the Pentax DA* 55mm f/1.4 mounted, wearing a Hood Hat Small and a DSPTCH Heavy Sling strap in olive drab.  (Not shown, my elbow brace, which is normally attached to the strap so I can find it.)

And yes, the cameras have names.  That’s mostly because the manufacturers insist on calling them by long, semi-meaningless strings of alphanumerics and they are actually easier to talk about and keep track of if you just name them. If you go to my Instagram (@kekiongacomics), you can search hashtags under each of their names to find pictures taken with each camera.

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on a canopic jar

Canopic jars are my favorite Egyptian art thing.  There’s no point here in going into (the many gross and fascinating) details about the process of mummification or about my childhood fascination with Wallis Budge’s The Mummy: A Handbook of Egyptian Funerary Archaeology.  (Yes, I did take this book* to summer camp with me one year, with interesting results.)

But of all the traditional pieces of art that accompany the making of a really high class mummy, my favorites are the canopic jars, which were used to hold (bluntly), the subject’s internal organs which are (of course)  removed during the process.  Everybody gets four jars, each with a lid depicting the head of one of the Sons of Horus, who represent the four directions. Hapi the baboon represents the North, Duamutef, a jackal, the East, Imsety, with a human head, represents the South, and Qebehsenuef, a falcon, is the West.  (Consult the Wikipedia page to find out which organs go in which jar, and which goddess protects each share of the anatomy.)  Sets of all four jars are common enough to be found in the Ancient Egypt collection of any reasonably well equipped museum, and it’s interesting to see the same four characters interpreted in different styles.

Which brings up this little jar. Made of plain stone and not particularly elaborately decorated, it was the jackal in a set that probably belonged to somebody who wasn’t a king. But it’s easy to see why it appeals to me so much.  It may be intended as a jackal, but I’m pretty sure the artist modeled it on a dog.  And that dog happened to look exactly like my late Welsh corgi, Chester.  I guess dogs don’t change much.

“The canopic jar that looks exactly like my dog Chester” can be found in the Egyptian collection at the Field Museum in Chicago.  You have to look for it.  It’s at the bottom of a fairly minor case at the end of the “tomb walk” (easy to reach from the more open parts of the exhibit on the lower floor for those who are claustrophobic) and it is far from easy to photograph in the tight space and atmospheric dimness of the shadowy gallery.  It gets an essay here today because I found some older images of it and used my newfound knowledge of photo editing to bring them into a better light.

*Sample pages here.

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fifty superheroes: number 20

Meet Claw: a masked and mysterious lupine hero.  Claw is the opposite of a “real” werewolf– their* character design is based on a Halloween costume.  Think of a high quality wolfman body suit, trimmed with real fur, with glove and boots fitted with articulated claws and instead of the howling wolf mask you might expect, a smooth and elegant art mask with glowing green or golden eyes.  Then make it fully functional: eyes that see, ears that hear, and above all claws that tear and cut and grip.  Claw is a powerful gymnast and/or parkour practitioner– the rest of their powers come from the suit and its claws.  They are a low powered hero by comic book standards, but Claw is far from stupid and has an iron will: they can use the abilities they have with frightening effect.  Their primary vulnerability is simple: the suit zips up the back, and Claw requires help getting in and out of it.  Who is their helper, and can that person be trusted with Claw’s secret?

(*Yes, I am using the 50 Sketchbook Superhero series to practice my newfound commitment to the singular “they”.  So many of these characters have no clearly recognizable gender, at least when they are in costume, and it has been enlightening to realize how calling one of them “they” can open my thoughts to the character being of any gender, or none.  Yes, if I was writing one of them into a comic or piece of fiction and giving them a full backstory, I might have to make some kind of choice.  But when we meet them casually in costume, we don’t necessarily know, and that’s turning out to be more of the point of the exercise than I originally expected.)

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how i met a giant mole

Our local power utility, which provides us with both electricity and natural gas, has a “Call Before You Dig” program.  This is entirely admirable: you call 811 before you plant trees or build a deck or whatever, and a crew comes out and marks all the gas, water, sewer and other buried utility lines so you don’t blow yourself up or flood the neighborhood.  (This is a positive social good; carry on.)

This weekend at our local street festival, I was amused to find that Call Before You Dig now has a costumed mascot: the Call 811 Mole.  I photographed him giving a safety lecture to some passers by while wearing full on mole working gear: hard hat, protective goggles, and high-visibility vest.  I’m not sure how effective the last would be for a mole digging underground (not to mention hiding from predators), but I suppose he is setting a good example.  I just enjoy meeting mascots– bigger than life cartoon characters don’t wander through your life every day.

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mushawasing, page 4

And there it is: the story of how Moose got her name.  It’s not just that she’s big and strong for a girl, and rather blunt and straightforward.  Or rather, that’s not all it is.  From Moose’s point of view, this story is more or less a secret.  I was trying to suggest in the last panel that we are reading notes in her Private Notebook.  The brushwork lettering and the place where it is replaced by my standard round nib lettering,  were meant to suggest a dream– that Moose herself is not sure whether she is recording the memory of a dream, or something more substantial.  Regardless, it is an important story to her and I am very glad she let me read it and share it with you in comics form.

“Mushawasing” is an invented name based on some Algonquian/Algonkian  word lists and modeled on real world Midwestern creek names like Kokosing (Owl Creek, in Ohio) and Lycoming (Creek with a Sandy Bottom, in Pennsylvania).  The official maps of Kekionga do show the name as Mushawasing Creek, but we all know better now.

To read a much longer prose story from Moose’s Private Notebook, check out Spider Time here.

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mushawasing page 3

I still like that last sentence about as well as anything I have ever written.  The designs for the Native American woman and child (and yes, Little Moose would definitely have called them “Indians” at that age) are based on a combination of  the Algonquian peoples who might have lived in what is now Kekionga at the time of the first English settlements in North America, and the Paleo-Indians who might have lived there in the distant past.  These shadowy First Inhabitants appear in several stories both written and (so far) unwritten.

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mushawasing page 2

What does happen when you fall asleep in the Woods?  Do you dream… or don’t you?

For those not familiar with Kekionga’s distinctive wildlife, the creature with its feet in the Creek is a young female Saiga petrovskii,  the woodland saiga. The woodland is slightly smaller than the more familiar (and dreadfully endangered)  saiga of our world, Saiga tatarica, and is otherwise adapted to life in transitional forests rather than open plains.

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read a story: mushawasing, page 1

Have you every read Mushawasing?  It’s an important bit of the Kekionga backstory.  If you haven’t, now might be a good time.  I’ll be posting here, a page a day, through the weekend.  Hope you enjoy this little story about what might happen if you fall asleep in the Woods.

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best of the drawing of the day: bedtime story

One of the things that happens during a long holiday weekend is the production of dense, highly detailed drawings of the day.  Long days with weird schedules, not just for the artist, but for other people in the household, means regular work gets disrupted and creative energy ends up getting spilled in odd places.  Add this to the crazy idea I had on the last day of August to do a theme month during September (probably with the vague plan that it will be good practice for Inktober) … well, a holiday weekend during Furniture Month* can give you Bedtime Story.  Giant grapes, a huge bed, find-the-character (a bird!), a family of werewolves, and four different inking media (brush pen, TWSBI Eco stub, TWSBI Eco extra fine scritchy-scratchy pen, plus whiteout) combine to make a drawing of the day that I think stays safely on the good side of being a muddy mess.  But just barely.

But the most interesting thing about it this drawing is the character on the right.  This is pretty clearly a drawing of a werewolf family at bedtime.  The little girl is a werewolf in her human form (you can tell by her eyebrows) reading a story to a parent or older sibling who has gotten comfortable on the bed in a mostly wolf form.  And what an interesting form it is: I’m pretty sure that’s 90% wolf/10% human, a stage in the transformation I have never drawn before.  It’s recognizable mostly in facial details– the shorter muzzle and more-centered eyes.  I wonder if this second character is reading along (or looking at the pictures), which is probably more difficult when one is fully a wolf.

(This form is the reciprocal of Professor Lykander’s usual form, which is 90% human/10% wolf.)

*Furniture Month is a month where I try to get over the bad habit of making every drawing of the day a simple figure drawing by incorporating a piece of furniture into every drawing and making the character or characters interact with it.

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phone camera monarch

As August turns into September/ I am chasing a monarch around the garden/ with my phone.

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