Tag Archives: justine mara andersen

Mara Page 11

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This was one of those pages that was a real struggle, my original plans for the composition were not working, too busy and disorganized, in the end the composition became about the enormous toad head and her psychedelic portrait. There’s a bit of a Yellow Submarine influence in the psychedelic elements, as well as a dash of Vaughn Bode. I always loved the face make-up in Bode’s drawings. But to be honest, though the tribute was not intended, when I look at page 11 all I can hear is the Hypnotoad from Futurama.

Probably the most interesting story that ended up attached to this page happened after I had pencilled this and shot the video. I was asked to draw a cover for an upcoming Barbarella comic! I was thrilled, as much as I have very mixed feelings about the movie, I’ve learned to love the original Barbarella comics by Jean Claude Forest. But even for all that, Barbarella represents something to me, something that it inherently is not, something abstractly iconic in the mythology of my life. It was and is part of my love for Exploitation Cinema, a part of the elusive comics that formed my earliest influences, and the psychedelic chick aspect of it is part of what influenced my sense of self. In other words, when asked to draw Barbarella, I wasn’t drawing her, I was drawing what she meant to me, it was more like an impressionist interpretation of Barbarella in that I was offering my impression of who she was to me.

When asked to do the cover, I was really stuck, I felt so intimidated by the monolith Barbarella has become to me, by what the concept of Barbarella within the context of my life means… and I was paralyzed. I couldn’t come up with a decent cover idea… so I figured I’d swipe this Mara page, though changing it a lot along the way. So yep, there she is below… Mara transmogrified into her grandmother… Barbarella.

Barbarella Cover Justine Mara Andersen

Barbarella Cover Justine Mara Andersen

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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 3

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And introducing… MARA! This is where the truth starts to shine through, the influence of of everything, DMT, Exploitation cinema, and, of course the artists that influence me, and this is where all that merges into the real me.

Early on, Berni Wrightson had a huge influence on me, and in many ways, this page was a tribute to his beautiful mad scientist laboratories, only mine is more organic, and I wanted to get away from Wrightson’s Gustave Dore obsession to remain true to my stylistic preferences. But that’s always the way with the things that influence me, once they are filtered through me, they end up looking little like the source from which I took inspiration.

…And this was also all merging with my love of research. I wanted this image to have the feel of an opium den. For me Mara is very much a “Beauty and the Beast” or “Cinderella” story, in that I am excited by the vision of her beauty surrounded by the foul and beastly, whether that foul and beastly presence be a place or an entity. Plus, at this point in the story, Mara has to be at rock bottom… or at the very least is traveling in that direction. I also have a fascination for things of the past, so a good old opium den setting was far more interesting to me than a rave.

Funny, but the truth is, my fascination with the opium den setting goes back to a fantastic old penny arcade machine I saw in San Francisco at the Musee Mecanique, I was lucky enough to find a picture of the very machine that fired my imagination… wish this was a video and we could watch it move.

I’d like to note also the “DMT toad” in the upper left. Now here is where I have to be totally straight, the entheogenic drug Mara is on is NOT actually DMT, let alone 5-MeO DMT, but a FANTASY version of DMT. Below I have included a photo of a DMT toad… the DMT is NOT activated by licking the toads, but by extracting the fluid from the sacks on the toads.

I’ve never actually had DMT from the toad, but since this is a fantasy, that seems irrelevant. The toad was more picturesque.

At this point I’d like to point out that Mara’s world isn’t so much a future world of any particular time, Mara’s world is another dimension, an alternate reality, and its logic runs on the logic of that reality, as dreams run on dream reality and fairy tales run on fairy tale reality, and Exploitation films run on Exploitation reality.

And, last but not least, to help me make this dream come true, to help bring these visions and fantasies to light, become a patron of the arts: https://www.patreon.com/barefootjustine

To take Justine’s classes: https://learn.sawcomics.org/collections/justine?q=

Mara Page 2

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As I explained in the video, page 2 was in a sense a compare and contrast between the world of Mara’s DMT visions and her “reality.” The page was laid out with the same panel dimensions, and the top panels of both pages were meant to compositionally run parallel to each other.

So, I am showing them side by side below:

Side By SIde Justine's Mara Pages 1-2

Side By SIde Justine’s Mara Pages 1-2

I think in a sense this imagery is a meditation on how entwined the realities and dimensions we live in are, the reality and dimension of our fantasies, and that of our reality.

Yet there is MOST definitely a difference between fantasy and reality, something the political correctness movement has entirely lost track of. It amazes me how quickly people will assume things about an artist’s politics or philosophy based on the fantasies in their art. I was once asked (hell… not asked… ACCUSED) by an ass-kissing gallery owner about my erotic fantasy work, “What does this say about slavery? About women’s rights?” I said, “Uhm… nothing.” I am constantly astounded at how many people cannot tell fantasy from reality. Let’s face it, most of the stuff that happens to Mara I would not want to live through, but that has nothing to do with what I might fantasize about. Fantasies should never line up with ideology, if they do, then I think you have surrendered your imagination, or perhaps chained it, to your politics. Shame, isn’t it?

OK, rant over, Just for fun, and to show how page 1 and page 2 relate even more clearly, I have merged the two pages into one below:

Justine Mara Andersen New Mara Pages 1 - 2 Merge

Justine Mara Andersen New Mara Pages 1 – 2 Merge

To be honest, I don’t really have much of a feel for science fiction, too much technical stuff, I prefer the organic quality of fantasy, but for the story to work, Mara had to start out in a world in which she feels misfit, so I had to draw environments in which I feel misfit.

Whenever I draw science fiction, I tend to turn to Syd Mead for influence, the man who essentially designed Blade Runner. I turn to him not so much to copy, but to draw influence, I also turned to Roy G. Krenkel for influence, but I could not find the Krenkel in particular that influenced elements of this page.

Below I have included a fine example of a Syd Mead, a world I admire as an act of creation, but not a place in which I would want to spend any time, a place Mara is forced to exist in… at least for now.

And, last but not least, to help me make this dream come true, to help bring these visions and fantasies to light, become a patron of the arts: https://www.patreon.com/barefootjustine

To take Justine’s classes: https://learn.sawcomics.org/collections/justine?q=

Mara Page 1 (& Classic Mara)

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Watch video above!

Old Mara Art

Old Mara Art

These entries are meant to compliment the on-camera video flip-through (TOP) I did with Tom Hart for the unfinished relaunch of my highly personal Mara comics series. At first we thought we might edit in close-ups and images from the artists that influenced me, but it seemed that a better treatment was to write accompanying blogs so the viewer can perhaps come in closer, or at least spend more time with the images I want to spotlight.

Before even going into the first page of the new Mara, I spent some time discussing “Classic Mara,” if something as utterly ignored and low-selling as my Mara can ever be considered “classic.”

Regardless, that old Mara project came from the heart, and it kept me “sane,” and drove me nuts at the same time… and kept me poor. But I felt I had something to say then, and then I thought it was important. Now, I have something to say, but being older… I no longer suffer from the delusion that it will be in any way “important.” As I often say, “I wanted to leave a mark, but I fear all I’ve left is a stain.” What kept me doing it even while it was being so utterly dismissed was that I had never seen anything like it. In other words, as familiar as I was with Exploitation Cinema, eroticism, and comics in that style, nothing sated my thirst, ONLY Mara did that. My unique vision was what kept me going.

Here she is, good old Mara! The image below was done about the time I had begun to burn out, it’s hard to believe now, but I abandoned this page because I thought it was lousy…

It ain’t!

Classic Unfinished Mara by Justine

Classic Unfinished Mara by Justine

The first page of the “New Mara” was inspired by my experiences with the psychedelic DMT, experiences which ended a couple years back. The problem with translating these experiences into art is that the DMT experience does not translate into the limitations of this reality. The DMT experience is not about seeing and hearing things, it’s more about BEING things. And worse, the DMT experience is a lot like having a handful of gold in the cave of wonders, gold that quickly turns to dust once you exit the cave.

How does one draw that which cannot be grasped, that which cannot be described or defined, or even remembered? About all an artist can do is try and recreate what the experience felt like.

I found the image below, and while it is not what I experienced, it came far closer than anything else I have seen. But imagine if the image below were in motion, the colors rotating, luminesce, and wholly immersive. All I could find to credit the artist was that it was done by “Beacon.”

I think if you look at the 2nd panel of the first page you will see that I did a variation on this image, but chose to reference the trunk of the Hindu deity Ganesh. Also note the floating circles and how they pan across all 6 of the lower panels.

Justine Mara Andersen's Mara Page 1 Detail

Justine Mara Andersen’s Mara Page 1 Detail

The grid underneath was intended to help me maintain symmetry, but I am thinking I might ink it in, it seems now to be a part of the drawing.

I was asked just yesterday if the DMT experience changed me for the better or for the worse. I stammered, and had to say that every action comes with consequences, some could be seen as positive, some as negative. All I know is that the changes have been profound and utterly irreversible. What I have learned from DMT has expanded me, and somewhat frightened me, it’s not something that should be undertaken lightly. Was it for the best or for the worst? I don’t know, but I don’t regret it.

And, last but not least, to help me make this dream come true, to help bring these visions and fantasies to light, become a patron of the arts: https://www.patreon.com/barefootjustine

To take Justine’s classes: https://learn.sawcomics.org/collections/justine?q=