Category Archives: 3. Hinduism

Hinduism has become the most significant force in my life. For years I had been lost to agnosticism and had sought relief in Taoism, Buddhism, revisited Christianity, and had eventually given up on spirituality altogether. I was no longer seeking, then, quite unexpectedly I was called by Lord Shiva. Here is where I will tell that story and share those thoughts. Om Namah Shivaya!

Where’d My Rug Go?

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What do you do when you’ve had the rug pulled out from under you? By that I mean… the BIG rug. I had been in a long-term situation with someone very dear to me, someone in whom all of my passions and obsessions were reflected: Harry Nilsson, Godzilla movies, Kahlil Gibran, Paul McCartney, God, Star Wars, Badfinger, Universal Horror, Exploitation Cinema, Ghoulardi… you name it, we shared it together. Unfortunately, there were long-running underlying problems too large to ignore. When it came time for me to walk away, I couldn’t just do it, I realized just how lonely I would be… for everything I loved, every movie, every song, everything that once would have consoled me would now smell like his cherry vanilla pipe tobacco, would now merely remind me. What do you do when you’ve had THAT rug pulled out from under you?

The story of “Devdas” could have been an answer for me, as once upon a time I would have drowned my sorrows in alcohol and anger, but…

I found other things to consume me, and probably the most immersive being Bollywood! Here I found a lake deep and wide enough to swim in for a long time to come. And best of all, Bollywood has no whiff of cherry vanilla about it, no, it smells to me like cardamom. It belongs to me, not to my friend and I.

In a time of emotional distress, I began to imprint my need to feel passionately on Bollywood. Not a bad choice, there I have found high emotion, dazzling visuals, long emotionally involved stories, love, tragedy, and high romance. There I have found what was, at first, a place to hide, but what now has become a place to explore and celebrate. And what a place, what a resplendent place! And best of all, I have found a few people to share it with, so those lonely nights have become evenings full of companionship, popcorn, cookies, and the chai I make for myself and serve to my friends and students. Through Bollywood I emerged from heartache quickly and victoriously.

My first discovery had already been a part of my life, director Sanjay Leela Bhansali, whose film “Saavariya” had really captured my heart. I’ve been fortunate in that here in town there is a heady video store that carries Bollywood DVD’s, but all the more fortunate in that there is actually a cinema here in town that regularly plays Hindi movies. Among the many I’ve seen there: “Bajirao Mastani,” “Bajrangi Bhaijaan,” and one of my very favorites… “Tamasha.” Some of those movies I saw more than once, being lured to the cinema like a moth to the moon. I haven’t had this close a relationship to the cinema since Star Wars was in theaters. It’s one thing to sit cozily in my home with a cup of chai, but it’s another thing entirely to witness these films on the big screen. When “Bajirao Mastani” premiered in town, the theater even dedicated the biggest room with the biggest screen to it, it was jaw-dropping, and I saw it three times. Immersive to say the least. The musical numbers blew my mind, not merely due to the scope, but in how well integrated they were into the story. Most significantly, in one of the dance numbers, there was a two layered metaphor that struck my heart.

Dancing rivals

“Bajirao Mastini’s” dancing rivals

Before I realized I needed to break-up or somehow change this situation I was in, I (metaphorically… “the other woman”) hosted what would have, in Bollywood terms, been a visit from my (metaphoric) “rival,” the wife of my dear friend. The days before her rather surprising arrival were anxious, but when she came, we danced… not literally, but we danced together. We shared great meals, shopped, talked about art, and realized that we had once been friends, though that was a lifetime ago, a manifestation ago for me. In “Bajirao Mastani” there is a love triangle between Bajirao, his wife (who was a truly great character), and his “mistress,” or 2nd wife (depending on who you asked), and in the film the two women set aside their differences and sorrows and danced! There was the very metaphor I needed when I needed it, but the metaphor ran even deeper as in the film the two women were relating to another story, that of Radha and Krishna. Of course, Krishna left Radha to be with his wife. And so it goes. And so it went, and so here I am. But, I followed the path of karma, spoke with Parvati many times, tried to deny the weight of what she was telling me I had to do, but in the end (through tears and torment) I set things as right as I could… knowing from the beginning what that would mean to me… what it means is I, like so many women, am left standing alongside Radha, slowly waiting for the air to stop smelling like cherry vanilla pipe tobacco. It has since, and smells now much more like sandalwood… when it’s not smelling like cardamom.

I went to the Temple soon after all this emotional trauma unsatisfactorily and inevitably resolved itself, and I bowed to Radha, her warm eyes, like pools of water, reflected my soul back to me, and I knew that if nothing else, my karma was now clean. And… I was now free. I have become very interested, of late, in doing what I can to realign my karma and find my center.

At home tonight I just finished “Jodha Akbar,” and just last night I got to see “Dedh Ishqiya” for the second time, and both times I saw it, I did so with friends. It seems with the help of Bollywood, I am emerging from this cloud with a smile on my face and with a room full of friends.

What have I discovered about Bollywood? Mainly that it speaks its own language of cinema and cannot be critiqued from a Western perspective trained to see things a certain… nay… a very specific way. For one, I love the high emotion of Bollywood, it matches my emotional intensity far more directly than Western films do. Western films are, to my eyes, emotionally stunted, full of characters who are not truly free to feel, and critiqued and praised by people who are not free to feel, nor open to another way of viewing cinema. I have found that Bollywood films, at their best, can redefine what cinema can be, or more specifically, how dear cinema can be to one’s heart. I have found that the dismissive cliches about Bollywood only prove to be so from a very narrow point of view. For example I have been surprised, even delighted, to note that in most cases the songs are flawlessly incorporated, and, to me anyhow, seem very organic, and beyond that I have been impressed at the way many of the more powerful directors use the song and dance elements. In “Dedh Ishqiya” the songs fit seemlessly into the film, and the choices of music were very high-minded to say the least. These songs truly speak from and to the heart, and like lyrics and poems, can more easily express deep emotions than dialog.

I have witnessed dance numbers and rhythms that Western Popular music could stand to learn from. I mean, talk about beats! Bollywood’s got beat! The dance numbers can be enchanting, and the choreography impressive, complex, enormous, yet, at times, as subtle as hand gestures (see Devdas for one fine example of that).

Divine Madhuri

Divine Madhuri

I have discovered that as I begin to be able to tell who’s who, I am beginning to develop certain loyalites to certain directors, and great respect and appreciation for certain actors, easily my favorite being Madhuri Dixit. Divine Madhuri! She is full of grace and magic, just as Bardot had been, and before her, Cary Grant, Fred Astaire, or even Audrey Hepburn. Madhuri has that larger than life feel, she never seems ordinary or vulgar. In “Dedh Ishqiya,” she plays an older woman, an aristocrat, who at heart is still a dancer, the same woman she has always been regardless of her status. This seemed, to me, like a metaphor for her own life and her own status. Bollywood, like Hollywood, is obsessed with youth. Her role in “Dedh Ishqiya” was inspiring and moving, especially to me, as I am not getting any younger. Madhuri shines, be she twenty-something or forty-something, she radiates with larger-than-life magic, just like the Beatles do and did. The Beatles never seemed like boys to me, rather like manifestations of Deities. Some people, some stars, are too big to be common. And many of us need our heroes to be bigger than we are, after all, what good is a hero who is only as large as our nearest neighbor? I do not seek equals in my heroes.

Do I sound like a fangirl?

Good, because I am, shamelessly so, shamelessly becoming an anime geek for Bollywood. And shamelessly dragging other people into this with me. So far, none of my converts have complained.

if there’s been an upside to this “break-up,” or “falling-out,” or whatever it was (nothing about the situation was typical or as-it-seemed) it has to be Bollywood. I’ve been grateful for the color, the music, the romance, the heroic values… and for the fact that the films are rarely (if ever) cynical. Cynicism, there’s something I’ve ggrown weary of in the West. Ah, give me romance, and I mean high romance, not just between a man and a woman, but romance to a culture, to music, to ideals of heroism. I’ve realized that, at least through Bollywood, the Indians have not forgotten how the hero’s journey works, and have not lost sight of what a hero must be. India, for all its problems and struggles, still understands its own myths, and still honors its own Gods.

Mastani with her sword

Mastani with her sword

Like Mastani with her sword, I have found strength. Shortly after seeing this film I found myself, once again, in a situation in which I needed to defend the integrity of my school and my own space. I have realized that I am, at times, all alone out here, and at times, I alone will stand firm and take matters into my own hands. On this day I ended up beating a door to splinters with a hammer (uh… long story). Ultimately, like Durga, I confronted this Rakshasa demon, and peace and quiet prevailed over the kingdom. I have begun to become the sort of woman for whom the buck stops, and it stops here, at my toes and ankle bangles. Yes, there are role models for women in Bollywood films, women who can be strong without resorting to grunting, groaning and spitting like men, women who know that their strength lies not in masculinization, but in a whiff of perfume, in dance, and in the depths of their femininity. And I have become the kind of woman who can survive having the rug pulled out from under her.

Well, I don’t know where the rug went when it was pulled out from under me, but I like the beautiful Persian rug I’m standing on now just fine. I think I’ll throw a few more pillows on it, lie down, and watch “Bahubali” again. Bring cookies, I’ll make the chai.

What Do You Do?

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Where to soothe the Blues

Where to soothe the Blues

If I were on Facebook these are the pics I would post to show everyone that my life is more full of carefree fun, great food, and friends than yours… after all, isn’t that the sole purpose of Facebook, to convince everyone that you are having more fun than they are… oh, and to share fucking cat pics? But this isn’t Facebook, this is life. And life is more complicated than a tweet or glamorous self-mythologizing FB post, isn’t it? Certainly it is more full of questions. I have one…

So what do you do when you’ve suffered a loss, when you’ve walked away from a crumbling source of comfort and you need to let go and move on? Me, I got together with a group of friends and went to the beach, you know, like Gidget would. WWGD… What Would Gidget Do?

I’ve been struggling with a lot of anxiety and sadness lately, and more than a little anger, all over a friend I’ve known for many years. To be honest, I feel like I was handed a shit sandwich. It hurt, but I decided not to wallow in it, to get up and go. I have called in all my friends so we could get together and go do things, so they could come over and I could not be alone. Right now being alone would be death… or at least a really bad stomach flu.

Rather than curl up in the fetal position under my covers and wish I had a bottle of Black Velvet, I decided that the best revenge is living well, but I guess it’s not really a “revenge” situation, so let’s go with: “the best recovery is living well.” I’ve decided to change my life, stop fighting this hopeless situation I found myself in, and let go. I spoke to Ganesh and asked him to remove all obstacles between me and letting go, between me and healing the heartbreak. Taking part in my own obstacle removal, I’ve been traveling to Temples, meditating, and going out with friends, beyond that I am hoping to enroll in dance or language classes. I am coping by moving on and not looking back, no pining, no longing, and why should I? Not when I can go out and do this instead…

Punit, Wilson, Barefoot Justine and Niyama on the beach.

Punit, Wilson, Barefoot Justine and Niyama on the beach.

I look goofy as hell in that pic… but what the hell, at least my smile is huge. I mean… really, I look dreadfully wonky, but dreadfully happy, too.

Yesterday was just the climax of several days of starting over. Sunday I went to the Krishna Temple (there’s no Hindu Temple nearby), and had a lovely time. Monday I spent the day with Tanya shopping, eating and seeing “Star Wars” (Tanya’s also from the Indian restaurant where I seem to find not only curry, but all my friends). Tuesday my ex-student and friend Jenny came over to indulge our Simpson’s fanaticism, and yesterday Wilson, Niyama and I (all of whom I know from the restaurant) decided to go see former Andaz employee Punit, who is working in Jacksonville. What a day!

Without resorting to generalizations… oh hell, I’m going to resort to generalizations… I’m finding that it has been easier for me to talk to and relate to Indians. Why? Well, many reasons, but their culture, even for the non-Hindus among them, seems to open them up more, seems to make them more comfortable with duality, contradictions, and especially high emotion… and I am full of all three. Wanna see evidence of my generalization, just check out any Bollywood film… talk about emotional! I’ve noticed that in most Western films men only cry when it’s pivotal, and they can usually man-themselves-up and get out of it by getting angry and shooting someone. In Bollywood films, the men just cry when they need to, simple as that.

For a start Wilson, Niyama and I had a long drive to Jacksonville, and since I sat up front with her, Niyama and I had the chance to get to know each other better. Even though I live (and have all my adventures) barefoot, there’s still something exciting about getting into a car as a passenger barefoot and going off on a little road trip. Somehow it seems more adventurous and liberating when I’m not driving.

I realized I was in my element when they put on some music. Now, this is the part where I usually get vaguely miserable as I hate most of the music the people around me play, especially Hip Hop derivative American pop, Punk or Metal. No, not in this case, the music that came out was one of my Bollywood favorites, and each song after reminded me how out of place I feel in the shitty world of Western popular music. I even remember smiling and thinking, “Now these are my people.” I felt so wholly comfortable and engaged in who they were, where we were going, and what we were listening to.

We soon arrived at Punit’s place, and Wilson and Punit seemed to go off on their bromance, talking Hindi all the while, leaving Niyama and I the chance to bond. Personally, I loved that there was a small separation of the sexes, the men, Wilson and Punit, in one corner; the women, me and Niyama, in another, and all of it in good fun. That’s one more thing I don’t get about Westerners, this bit where the guys will treat a girl like one of the boys. I’m not one of the boys, I don’t wanna be one of the boys, I don’t want talked to like one of the boys, and around these guys I didn’t have to be treated that way, and I didn’t have to compete with them on that level… nope, no co-ed belching contests with these guys.

Punit has been a friend to me for some time, and even after he moved away to Jacksonville we have kept in touch. I think Punit and I bonded several months ago when he was struggling, so we’d take trips to the Temple. Getting to see him after so long was truly a treat. Punit is one of those lovely guys who has not let the child in him die… the man really knows how to play! And he knows how to draw that out of others without pushing them.

Punit & me...

Punit & me…

After struggling to get to lunch, we headed back to Punit’s and worked out what to do. In the end we decided to go to the beach. I’m not the biggest beach bum in the world, but once we got there and I looked out over the dunes to the open sky, I was totally at one with it. For the next hour or so we walked, talked and played, all barefoot in the sand.

Which feet belong to the white chick?

Which feet belong to the white chick?

I have to say, it was truly one of the more perfect days I’ve had in a very long time. I was able to simply give myself over to having fun, playing, and flowing with whatever was going on.

Unfortunately, in the middle of our fun, I walked off with Wilson and he informed me that he was moving on, probably to the Carolina’s. A tear rimmed my eye, but I just hugged him and told him how much I’d miss him. That’s the life of these guys who work in these restaurants, they seem to come and go, but I have to say that Wilson dumped the news on me in true Bollywood style, in a moment of joy with friends on a misty beach. That’s the way it should be done, isn’t it?

And speaking of the way it should be done, here we are, together, as I start over and refuse to give over to grief and anger, after all anger leads to hate, and hate leads to the darkside… I think Yoda may have said that. The Force, Karma, the Tao, whatever.

Upshot, 4 friends at the beach.

Upshot, 4 friends at the beach.

After our beach fun, we went out to the restaurant where Punit works and had the most amazing South Indian feast! The food was spicy and perfect, and thanks to Wilson, who remembered it was my favorite, we topped it all off with carrot pudding. It was hard going back to Punit’s place, knowing it was time to go, so we milled about in the parking lot for a good hour, hugs, kindness, and good fun, and for another day I forgot to hurt, and truly remembered what it feels like to be alive, to have friends, and to live a life.

but perhaps even better was the drive home in which Niyama and I really had a chance to get to talk and know each other, the overworked Wilson asleep in the back seat while we talked about art, culture and karma.

Best of luck Wilson, I’m really going t miss you! But thanks, thanks so much, and thanks for going out in such grand style, the way you told me will forever be as lovely a memory as our friendship. And the next time I’m going to say goodbye to someone, I’m going to make sure I do it at dusk on a beach.

Warring Heart Krishna Sky

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No sleep, no peace, no idea,
A sour stomach a warring heart,
Weak with roiling uncertainty,
I left my little kingdom.

Road below, sky above, so blue,
Blue as Krishna’s hands,
Air warm as Krishna’s cheeks,
I am grateful for the light.

How could anything be so bad,
When Krishna is the sky,
When green clings to winter,
Such color stills my heart.

I know the road, each turn,
Better than I know my heart,
Each beat is lost to me,
Each thought sly as shadows.

Each shadow a demon’s growl,
A thousand thoughts at war,
A thousand rootless heartbeats,
No rhythm to bind them.

Towards the cows I go,
One grey as my emotions,
One black as my fears,
He will not break away.

The black cow stares hard,
Into his eyes, deep and far,
He will not let me go of him,
The cow he waits, on what?

I bow gently to his soul,
Satisfied, he looks away,
To the grass, to his eating,
And is a cow once more, black.

Once more, what am I? Black,
Grey, or blue as Krishna’s sky?
I am barefoot in the grass,
And little else I need to be.

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna,
Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare,
Hare Rama, Hare Rama,
Rama Rama Hare Hare.

The Bear

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The Bear
by Justine

A bear, the beast upon my chest, a cumbrous coat of want and greed,
If I could move I could not breathe for suffocating need,
If I could move it’s teeth would bare, wide eyed would I recede,
This bear it pins me in my place, my life it does impede.

His gums are black, his teeth are yellow, and bloodstained all around,
His beastly fur darker than nights when stars dare not shine upon the ground,
His breath the sea and undertow in which so many lost souls have drowned,
Beneath sharp black eyes I tremble still, and my senses he does astound.

This bear, the beast, blinds me to my path, no sky blue can I see,
The meat-blood breath it takes in turns and draws my will from me,
I fear to move, so mighty he, my heart it cannot flee,
I forget myself, sweat and cry, and wish the beast to set me free.

This bear, my beast, it caught with me as I scrabbled up Longing Hill.
The brutish rhythm of its breathing drives it’s weight throughout my will,
This bear it snarls holes of fear all through dreams I’ll not fulfill,
Paralyzed the beast presses me to the earth and drives me like a drill,

To blackness I fade too slow, though never a sleep of dreams,
The leaping salmon this bear ignores, like me they fight their way up streams,
Afraid to open my mouth for fear I could never stop the screams,
This bear this beast was given birth through my life of mad extremes.

The black of sleep I would welcome now but dear God it never comes,
A minute here an hour there, the peace of sleep comes to me in crumbs,
Please I beg you, let me sleep and still the army of warring drums,
The bear, dear God, the darkness too, my tallied karmic sums.

I seek release from the dark cocoon the bear around me he did weave,
From this web I would struggle to be free but with nothing can I cleave,
So mighty the links in his chain of web I’ll never have my leave,
For now I must surrender myself, my hopes I must relieve.

The forest of the bear is deep, his dark breath thunders deeper still,
The darkness is his blood, and thicker than the web, it will not spill,
I’ve lost myself to fur, breath, webbing and the darkness of this hill,
For want and need I’d lost my way, ground to powder in my mill.

This bear is mine, my soul released the beast which chased me down,
The dreams I dreamt and the paths pursued lost me to this last ghost town,
And all my needs have grown such teeth and growled all my golds to brown,
I’ve lost my way but cannot pray while this bear he keeps me down.

Justine’s Odysseus Page 1: An In Depth Look At the Process

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1 of 6: In these 6 entries I am going to walk you step by step through the process I went through to create 6 of the 17 pages I pencilled and inked for the upcoming “The Odyssey Of Sergeant Jack Brennan” graphic novel. This is a DARPA funded project intended to assist veterans with PTSD. The power of myth lies in its metaphorical applications, and this project has used that to great effect, and I am proud to have been a part of it. So… let’s go…

But before we really dig in, I have opted not to separate my emotions from the art, nor my emotional experiences from what you will read below. For me the making of art and living life as an artists are all tied into my emotional nature–and, after all, this whole bizarre need we feel in our culture to separate ourselves professionally from our emotions is really just part of the patriarchal construct of our culture, which I find so nonsensical.

The whole project started with a script, below you will see the first page of 3 that I was sent. To be honest, I was not the first artist chosen to illustrate this section of the book (but I damn well should have been). The first artist was not interested in the project in the least and turned in a cramped and lifeless 6 page interpretation of this story. He was let go, and the team called me to come in at the last minute and save this section of the story–which was all around for the best. My adaption of this section of script stretched it to a much more appropriate 17 pages, and my enthusiasm level for the project was high from the get-go. In the page of script included below you will see that it has been marked up with notes. Tom Hart did an initial round of breakdowns (which means he essentially worked out which action would appear on which page), and though his breakdowns were a life-saver (as they really got me over the hump and started in the right direction), I was allowed the liberty of stretching things out and reworking the initial breakdown of the script in a way that better fit my storytelling style and sense of timing. You will also notice not only my ballpoint red-line breakdowns, but a few thumbnails for images and pages that came to me before I had even begun any real sketching.

Odysseus breakdowns

Odysseus breakdowns

Prior to even beginning the pressure was on. I was led to believe that, since the first artist had fallen down on the job, this whole section had to be pencilled and inked in 2 to 4 weeks! When I started on the thumbnails I decided to think hard about what kinds of images I could simply draw by relying on the lessons I have internalized–in other words, I didn’t have time to research or stretch. Fortunately over time that changed, the deadline loosened up and I managed to stretch more on this project than I have in a very long time.

Something very unusual happened on the first page, and that is that I more or less knew what the finished page was going to look like from the start. I have a lousy visual memory, and I rarely see anything clearly in my head prior to sketching or drawing, instead I have always had to set pencil to paper and work my compositions and the elements of the drawings out directly on paper, and sometimes much of the real thinking doesn’t even start until I am drawing on the finished piece.

In this instance I knew I wanted a Jeffrey Catherine Jones feel to this page (and many of the pages throughout, until I started looking at and thinking about Hal Foster and Al Williamson). I wanted the lines to be as loose and alive as Jeffrey’s, and the compositions to be open and full of white space. One of the most important lessons I learned from my friendship with Jeffrey Catherine Jones was when she busted me for not using enough white in my designs, and in fact, Jeffrey said to me at one point: “I see you spot blacks well… but where’s the white?” Well, my dear Jeffrey, here’s the white! Lots of it… this page is for you. Looking at it now, especially in the clouds of the final inks of the final panel, I was also paying tribute to another of my mentors, P. Craig Russell–who I seem to have had a falling out with, he knew me when I was very young.

Also note the strong mythological look of the first panel. There were no mythic creatures in my section of the script, and this bothered me, so not only did I want to draw some creatures, I also wanted to cue the reader in from the very first panel that this was a dangerous world full of mythic beasts. Though I knew I wanted to create (in panel 1) an image that existed in two planes (above and below water), at this point I had no idea how I was going to pull that off–that came later.

Note my note to self in the sketch below, “not compositionally sound.” I find that odd now as I did little revision to the compositions, most notably the sea serpent is pointing the wrong direction and leads the eye of the viewer off the page (for more on this, see my story about Steranko in the entry for page 6), and I corrected that in the final image (we’ll get to that later).

Odysseus Page 1, (Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen

Odysseus Page 1, (Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen

Another unusual aspect of this project, one that most definitely caused me some anxiety, was the way I had to deliver the work. Normally, when working out a passage in comics, I have an outline I work from, and I work out one page at a time, or a few if I truly know how I want the storytelling to work out for a particular passage. In this case I had to offer a full run of 16 pages of layouts for approval (16 pages turned into 17 at the suggestion of Tom Hart who correctly felt that an extra page needed to be included to make an important emotional point later in the story). Below you will see the layout I turned in for the first page, which is not dissimilar to the finished piece.

Note the “bumps” at the top and bottom of the page, the painted out borders that I then extended top and bottom as I had mismeasured the dimensions for the layout. That proved to be all for the best as the elongated panels were much more attractive. And note that idiot sea serpent is still pointed in the wrong direction.

Odysseus layout, (Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen

Odysseus layout, (Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen

From here I had to simply draw the page. There were a number of problems, first off… I don’t know Jack about boats, how they work, or what all those ropes and doodads are for–it seems to me there are just too damn many of them. I turned to Hal Foster for reference, as I found his boats far more useful than the other references I could find. Additionally, I was watching Ray Harryhausen’s “Jason and the Argonauts” on repeat play as I pencilled these pages… and I’m still not sick of that movie! That movie and the Argonaut itself was a life saver. I have loved that movie and Greek Myth since I was a kid, so the whole project was a dream come true. I would also like to mention that I pencilled this page in 4 to 6 hours. This is important as I have (in the past) had a habit of torturing my pages into existence, of erasing, redrawing, suffering, and fighting with megalithic blocks for countless days and hours. This time I decided with great intent that I was simply going to sit down and draw. I was not going to allow any blocks to enter my being. In order to make this happen I would bow before Saraswati (the Hindu Goddess of knowledge–teaching?–and the arts) to ask for her blessing and for her grace to guide my hand. The moment I felt a block coming, if I couldn’t just deny it and draw over, past, or around it, I would stop and meditate before the Goddess again, allow her to slay those demons for me, and, calmer, I would simply get back at it. Oh… and note the direction of the sea serpent, pointing the viewer into the next panel rather than out of the page… and also creating a nice compositional flow that leads from panel to panel and continues across the page. Often when I lay out pages I look at my compositions on two levels: I consider my compositions not only in regards to the single panel, but often I see the whole page as having a unified composition or sense of movement.

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen - Odysseus 1: comic

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen – Odysseus 1: pencils

Ok, so now it was time to do my favorite part… INK! I love that moment when I get to hold a brush in my hand and truly bring the lines to life. I love dipping my brush in ink and making those sensual lines come alive on the paper! The problem was… I wanted the images to look loose (yet perfectly consciously designed). Looseness is a difficult thing to manufacture. it was important that my lines looked as much like those of Master and teacher Jeffrey Catherine Jones as possible… or at least that was the challenge I had in mind, and the mark I was aiming to hit. One of the things I did to meet this end was ink page 2 (and maybe 3) first, then after I was warmed up and loosened up I went back and inked page 1.

Below you will find the unfinished inks, note the single ship in panel 1 (more on that below):

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen - Odysseus 1: finished inks (single ship)

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen – Odysseus 1: finished inks (single ship)

I would like to note that I signed this page to Saraswati, as I felt it was her grace that guided my hand. When the team of editors decided that they needed more boats in many of the panels of the book for the sake of continuity, this included the first panel. Tom Hart suggested to the committee that I redraw the panel. I flipped out! NOT that panel!

“To sing a wrong note is insignificant, but to sing without passion is unforgivable.”
― Ludwig van Beethoven

Boats… I was communing with my Gods… I cared not about 3 boats! I felt unusually passionate about the work I did on this project… page after page I was experiencing huge breakthroughs as an artist. And that first panel is one of my favorite panels in the book, and it was divinely inspired and rendered, I was never going to be able to hit that mark again. Look closely (you can… click on it, the image below is larger and at a higher resolution), the lines are controlled but loose, exactly what I wanted, and a thing I have never been able to accomplish before. Poor dear Tom… he had no idea, this wasn’t just 17 pages of comics, I happened to have made enormous breakthroughs throughout the course of this particular project, and it was a subject I had been in love with since childhood… Odysseus and Greek Myth. Over the course of the project I had two emotional moments, and the writer/overlord didn’t mind them in the least. He saw my passion as a huge plus considering the lifeless attitude of the first artist. Inspired work comes at a minor cost, that cost being that inspired and passionate artists can be feisty. Still, in the end, I drew in the extra boats. I believe it is not in the best interest of any project for the artists to be too malleable. Artists have to fight for their ideas, their vision, it serves the project they are working on… but here’s the catch, as an illustrator you ultimately have to give in and give the client what they want, as that, too is the responsibility of the illustrator.

Fight to win, but in the end, always give in to the client, at its heart, that is our job.

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen - Odysseus 1: finished inks

(Barefoot) Justine Mara Andersen – Odysseus 1: finished inks

But we’re not done yet. Keep checking in, 5 more pages to go! I will be uploading an entry a week over the next few weeks, and probably a second entry later this week just to get some momentum going.

Huge gratitude to Tom Hart for taking the time to find all the scans I needed to write this, and the coming, entries on this project.

To see the next installment in this series, click here: http://barefootjustine.com/2014/09/03/justines-odysseus-page-6-an-in-depth-look-at-the-process/

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