Author Archives: Barefoot Justine

About Barefoot Justine

Illustrator, dreamer, Hindu, barefoot.

Mara… the INKED pages!

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Normally these entries have been a mix of blog and video, but I said all I needed to say in the video. I misspoke once when I said (about the page with the circular explosion of panels) that I inked that in one sitting, I meant I inked the border in one sitting, the rest took days.

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Dear Colin Hay

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Dear Colin Hay, (an open letter)

As artists we seem to spend our time soaring in the blue sky or sunk in the belly of some whale or other. From the outside it might look like the blue sky times are when we are successful, in demand, and the times in the belly of the whale come once we’ve fallen, once we’ve lost all we fought and struggled to attain. But is that so?

I just watched your biopic “Colin Hay, Waiting For My Real Life,” and found it as deeply moving and inspiring as you might hope anyone would find it. And the experience of watching it felt comfortable, and all too familiar.

I too had a dream, and I dreamt big, and like you, I dug in my heels, obsessively worked and made it happen, though in a much smaller universe than the one you inhabited. For a while I was inking characters like Superman and Green Lantern, illustrating Dungeons and Dragons manuals, and doing illustrations for Lucasfilm. And, man, like you when you were on top I felt like this was going to be a forever thing. After all, I’d paid my dues, done my homework, and it was only right that I was where I was.

Right Colin?

But it wasn’t a forever thing for me either.

It all fell apart, no fault of my own… now what? Who the hell was I without that dream? That’s the danger, isn’t it? If you identify yourself as your dream, what do you do when the dream is over? Who are you?

A drunk.

Well, none too surprisingly, I too fell, into alcohol, it seems so many of us draw the same lines and sing the same blues as our work as artists, our lives as artists… hell, our identities as artists, run parallel lines, toss us about in our little ego boats, dashing us into the same rocks, humbling us, but hopefully, if we have the wisdom, all that grinding against the rocks buffs off our rough edges, shows us who we are beneath the big dreams. The spotlight comes from outside, but as artists, our light comes from within, and it’s on the way down and in the flat prairies where we find out who we are, where we shine on our own or sink into darkness. Granted, some of us have to spend some time in the dark before we realize that the light was never coming from the spotlight. The light was never out there.

With or without the dreams, we’re still dreamers. As one of my Indian friends once said to me, straight from the Gita, “Don’t think of the fruit.” All we’re entitled to is the work, never the audience, never the fruit of the action.

And so like you, metaphorically speaking, I learned to play my heart out in smaller halls. And as you joke on stage, somewhere deep down we know it’s not better, but we also know it’s better than drinking, and it’s best to just keep going. And it’s best not to think about it. And moreso, it’s best to keep growing larger as artists even if our audiences grow smaller. Do they define us? Does their size define us?

Besides, what else are we going to do?

It seems you’ve created your best work, regardless of the size of your audience, and I’ve done my best work, regardless of how small or local the print run. There’s an irony in all this, the people who love our best work, the people who are still with us, honestly, they’re the ones who also have realized that the light is not upon us, but shining from us.

I’ve been working on my own story, returning to a character I had created all those years ago, it’s like going home again. I know the audience will be small, but who knows? Your audiences have certainly gotten bigger, maybe not 1982 bigger, but bigger, and maybe mine will be too. So many people respect you, and respect is a vein that runs deeper than fame. Funny, but even as my audience has gotten smaller, the love and respect my students and fans show me seems to have gotten bigger.

I related to your story in so many ways. I felt so many of the same things, and lost so much and so many people along the way.

You are an inspiration, and that’s more than most people give, it’s certainly more than most people get.

The sky is very blue from up here… ins’t it?

Well done,
Justine Mara Andersen

p.s. This is the email I would have written to him after seeing the movie, if only I could have found an address. And… it’s my review of the film… see it, and listen to this man.

Mara Page 10

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For a change, I’m not going to track my visual influences here, In most of these blog posts I show people what inspired me, but I can’t really show you what inspired me because… it’s illegal to give you all DMT, I don’t have any DMT (and haven’t for 2 years), and I’m not so sure it’s a good idea to give you all DMT.

Whenever I talk about these pages I’m always asked, especially by students, “Should I take DMT?” and I answer that with questions, questions and strong warnings. Though I am a big believer in the beneficial properties of entheogenic substances, plant teachers and medicines, I’m also a big believer in responsible conscious use and timing. The timing of tripping is very important, take it before you are ready… and it can be a big disaster. I never took psychedelics at all until I was well into my adult life and knew what I wanted from them. I took psychedelics as a seeker, as a follower of Shiva, as a fellow sufferer, and I think you can tell, I did not take them lightly.

The page below is an impressionistic attempt to somehow convey in a black and white line drawing, what the DMT experience is like… which is an utterly impossible goal, other than that perhaps I have met the goal of showing what it feels like to have so much information coming at you so fast that you can’t take it all in.

Barefoot Justine Mara Pencils Page 10

Barefoot Justine Mara Pencils Page 10

Additionally, since Mara’s world is not a future world, or a dystopian vision of the future, it’s an alternate reality, the DMT in her reality resonates not only on the visual and reality shredding spiritual level, it also resonates at the erotic level, hence the entrance of the substance through her navel and the pulsation of her nipples.

This image is highly personal, the ring of panthers are from a dream I had while I was not on DMT, but that I know happened due to DMT. DMT changed my dreams, they began to hold messages, began to reveal things to me that I needed to see and to know. The central ring of jesters are similar to the ones I saw in the DMT realm, but that I later discovered had been painted on cave walls! And the center ring focuses on the toad, its eyes, it’s third eye, and the pouches that contain DMT… though I never had toad 5NMEO DMT, I thought the toad was a better visual symbol for the Mara story. The only other thing I think I really captured here is the way reality shatters once the DMT takes hold, or at least the filtered reality we are all familiar with.

One of the BIG stresses of this page was that I did not want to lose the looseness of the panther drawings, and needed to maintain the tightness of the panel borders, which were numerous and a nightmare to ink. I have to say that I always ink panel borders with a ruler, but in this case, it got so messy, I inked most of the borders freehand with a brush.

As it turned out, the inks came out better than I could have hoped for!

For the first time in this blog series, I am going to share with you the final inks!

Barefoot Justine Mara Page 10 Inks

Barefoot Justine Mara Page 10 Inks

Lastly, when I tell people that DMT forever changed me, people then ask, “for the better or for the worst?” And I don’t have an easy answer. Most definitely having your concepts of the nature of reality shredded is a difficult thing to deal with… would I want to go back to my limited notions of the nature of reality? I tell people the truth, it’s been challenging to readjust, but I have no regrets and I would not want to unlearn what DMT taught me, and I would not want to undo how DMT changed me.

My advice, proceed wisely, carefully, do your research, and really think about whether or not DMT is right for you. It was definitely right for me, and it sent me further down the spiritual path, and far faster than perhaps I thought myself ready for.

If you love what you are seeing, please note that I am creating these pages with a return of NOTHING, so I am seeking patrons. Monthly patronage would really help this project come along, and my patrons get all manner of cool exclusives: https://www.patreon.com/barefootjustine

Truth From Cleese

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“If you really are out there thinking we can change this place into something other than a madhouse, I think you are basically wasting your energy, but if you can make 12 or 15 people’s lives just a little bit better in some small way, then I think you are doing your job.”

John Cleese

Mara Page 9

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Become a Patron of Barefoot Justine’s: https://www.patreon.com/barefootjustine

I usually like to load my blogs with visual references, but to tell the truth, the story I am telling on this page is more about philosophical, political and spiritual references than visual ones. However, there is one major influence, or series of influences I can trace through for you here.

One of the things that has kept me interested in Mara as a project is somewhat hard to explain. I often have an idea, so I go seeking reference for that idea, or some film or comic that has the mood of that idea, and what I find rarely hits the mark, rarely sates the needs of my eyes as a viewer, of my mind as a reader. I then realize that the ONLY way what I want to see and feel is going to be seen or felt is if I make it. In other words, dare I say it, I feel that Mara is truly and genuinely unique. There’s nothing else quite like it.

Light Years

All that said, one obvious influence, perhaps even swipe, was from the movie “Light Years,” which contained an understated eroticism, but also was where I got the idea for a civilization of mutants that had been created by the power structure of the above-ground world. That whole concept really got stuck in my imagination and I began to riff on all the possibilities this contained for Mara’s world. In truth, in the original Mara, done a long long time ago, those mutants played a lesser role, but now they have become a driving force and in a way her guardians, guides, and often victimizers. For me I find the seeds of my ideas in the corners of other works, very often I respond most to a character, concept or aside than I do the major thrust of the story being told, and I think, “More could be done with that.”

In the end, though I was influenced by the mutants in “Light Years,” my mutants serve a different purpose and come from a different perspective, but to be fair to me, my mutants are not merely different in narrative purpose, but in that they are mostly composed of Frankensteinian pieces parts of animals and humans, thus separating them one degree further from “Light Years.”

In a sense my mutants are no more influenced by “Light Years” than by “Frankenstein,” and just as notably, by “Island Of Lost Souls,” MGM’s 1932 adaption of “The Island Of Dr. Moreau,” which is a “must see.” No less influential than the mutants was the concept of “The Panther Woman,” who has influenced not only Mara, but my own inner self.

Island Of Dr. Moreau

No less influential than “Island Of Lost Souls” was the 1977 film version of “Island Of Dr. Moreau,” in which, again, the animal-human mutants are very obviously seen, but what might not be immediately obvious is that here again, as in “Island Of Lost Souls” we see a return to my favorite fairy tale influences, “Beauty and the Beast,” as well as “Cinderella,” in that both contain barefoot beauties surrounded by beasts, filth and squalor. That contrast for me is as fascinating as that of the mix of pain and pleasure in sadomasochism.

So I think you can see that even something as simple as a “swipe,” once analyzed becomes far more complex. I have not merely “swiped” the ideas I loved from “Light Years,” that was merely the spark of inspiration, then came in other influences like “Frankenstein,” and “Island Of Lost Souls,” and “Island Of Dr. Moreau,” and it all mixed together with my own observations about how politicians use religion, and enslave God to serve their own perverted needs. In other words, once I get past the self-effacing notion that I have “swiped” something I begin to see the domino effect of numerous other influences just as important as the initial inspiration, then that all gets filtered through me, my life, and my output as an artist to become something that, in the end, bears very little resemblance to “Light Years” or any original source of inspiration. In a sense, all art is collage, we gather influences, ideas, passions, cut a bit from here, paste a bit from there, move things around, and create our own worlds from the ones we love. And hopefully in the end our collage looks more like us than it does our influences.

If you love what you are seeing, please note that I am creating these pages with a return of NOTHING, so I am seeking patrons. Monthly patronage would really help this project come along, and my patrons get all manner of cool exclusives: https://www.patreon.com/barefootjustine

Mara Page 8

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OK, group, so here’s another case where I have to openly talk about the evil world of “DRUGS!” Ooh… sounds so sensational when we say it that way… something BIG pharma, politicians and exploitation documentary makers (and NOT the divine type of exploitation of the cinema) know all too well. Rather than referring to marijuana as a plant medicine and DMT and Ayahuasca as a plant teacher, we use the word “drugs” to shut down dialog and vilify… but enough of that rant. This page was partially inspired by the one (of 15 or so) DMT trips that went bad, though I get more specific on that later. In the trip, the floor under my bare feet became quite menacing, so here I mixed that with a scene from the original Hans Christian Andersen story “The Little Mermaid.” Note how Mara’s feet are enjoying trodding upon mushrooms, that soon turn into vile polyps, then eyeballs.

Below is the passage from “The Little Mermaid,” which seems to me to emphasize if not somewhat eroticize her bare breasts.

“Beyond this stood her house, in the centre of a strange forest, in which all the trees and flowers were polypi, half animals and half plants; they looked like serpents with a hundred heads growing out of the ground. The branches were long slimy arms, with fingers like flexible worms, moving limb after limb from the root to the top. All that could be reached in the sea they seized upon, and held fast, so that it never escaped from their clutches. The little mermaid was so alarmed at what she saw, that she stood still, and her heart beat with fear, and she was very nearly turning back; but she thought of the prince, and of the human soul for which she longed, and her courage returned. She fastened her long flowing hair round her head, so that the polypi might not seize hold of it. She laid her hands together across her bosom, and then she darted forward as a fish shoots through the water, between the supple arms and fingers of the ugly polypi, which were stretched out on each side of her.”

Edmund Dulac Little Mermaid

Edmund Dulac Little Mermaid

Were these hallucinations, the physical reality of this space? Does it matter, isn’t all maya, all illusion? Anything that is real to us in a moment is the reality we know.

While in the panels below I reached for a balance between the old world I loved (Gollum from the Rankin Bass Hobbit), and what is to me the new world of stylistic abstraction and the raw looseness I am chasing. First with the old world I know, I recall in the Hobbit cartoon just how magnificent the anatomy of the Gollum was… those fabulous hands!

To be honest, I have to confess that the Rankin Bass Hobbit had more of an influence on me, my mind, my art, the velocity of my life, than anything up to that time, and perhaps anything after, potentially including the earth-shattering influence of Star Wars. What that Hobbit did for me was first introduce me to fantasy of the highest order! And, more importantly, if you look carefully at the backgrounds and the lines, the entire design of the movie was based on the work of an artist who, many years down the road, was to become the biggest influence on my art and style, Arthur Rackham. Seriously, look at Rackham, then watch the Hobbit and tell me you don’t see it!

And, though I say somewhat new territory for me, the abstraction and stylization, as is still my path, it is based on the work of a master. Though I was not looking at this image, Klimt was very much in mind.

Gustav Klimt
Judith I, 1901

But what is coming on the next page is not merely a return to the reality of erotic texture that was always a part of my Mara work, but most definitely pushed many steps further than I had been capable of all those years ago… but that, will have to wait until we get to page 9.

If you love what you are seeing, please note that I am creating these pages with a return of NOTHING, so I am seeking patrons. Monthly patronage would really help this project come along, and my patrons get all manner of cool exclusives: https://www.patreon.com/barefootjustine

Mara Page 7

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As Mara goes deeper and deeper down into her own self, her own struggles, and her understanding of her world, I guess it’s about time to go deeper about where her world, and in fact, mine, came from.

It was a long time ago, I picked up a copy of Warren’s “1984,” an uncommonly good issue, but two things really stood out, Frank Thorne’s “Ghita,” and Jose Gonzalez’s “Herma.” I was a really young artist when I found this, and this single magazine, probably as much as seeing the Hobbit in 4th grade, then later Star Wars, influenced me in a truly life changing way, it game me an artistic vision. When I saw those two masterpieces of exploitation and fantasy comics… I KNEW exactly what I wanted to do.

Needless to say, it seemed a miracle to me years later when I was headed to Frank Thorne’s studio to finally meet and talk with one of the artists who changed my life. Example below is scanned right from that ragged old copy of “1984.”

I managed to set up a meeting with Frank thanks to my fearless pursuit of mentorship. Fantagraphics had sent him some Mara to look at before they decided to pick up the series, and Frank sent back a bunch of notes and even some overlays in which he drew over my drawings to show me where I had gone wrong. These overlays were revelatory, but so was the fact that Fantagraphics had forgotten to black out Frank’s address and phone number, so, I called him. Immediately he let me know that any time I was in Jersey, I could stop by. Immediately I began planning a drive from Ohio to New Jersey, and through a raging blizzard, made my way to Frank Thorne’s studio… life and art changing event.

No less influential, and you’ll see this as you look at a lot of these images where Mara is descending stairs, was Jose Gonzalez’s exquisite “Herma,” though I never met Gonzalez, his work has had a profound influence over me, and below, again, is a scan from that very same ragged copy of “1984.” And if you look at the past couple pages, and pages to come, you’ll see the influence of his backgrounds in my work.

Oddly, as I have begun the inking process, I have been slowly draining those influences from the work and allowing my style to dominate… this I had not seen coming, but I am pleased at last to be happy enough with my own style to be allowing it to overcome the love of my influences.

If you love what you are seeing, please note that I am creating these pages with a return of NOTHING, so I am seeking patrons. Monthly patronage would really help this project come along, and my patrons get all manner of cool exclusives: https://www.patreon.com/barefootjustine