10 Years Today

(Please click on the images to see them at their full size.)

Laughing Knees is 10 years old today! What started out as a way to express my rage and anguish at the Iraq War and Bush, gradually lost it’s fever and mutated into something much closer to my heart. It’s been a long, long journey, not always easy, but also never boring. Blogging has connected me with people around the world I would never have met otherwise, some of whom have become close friends, and most of whom I am still in touch with even today. While I haven’t been around much for the last two years, lately I’ve begun to revive my interest in blogging and slowly uploading material that wasn’t part of the blog in the past. I hope to make Laughing Knees more comprehensive, but also more focused. Hopefully you, my friends, will find more to read and think about in the coming 10 years.

(These are not the best of my drawings, just a sampling of my recent, first scans. I hope to get some of the better ones up soon.)

lk_studies_004_banner_ideas

Laughing Knees started out as a reaction against the Iraq War, and was the only way that I was able to express the rage and anguish I felt. But as time went on I couldn’t sustain the anger, and reverted back to my normal, daily thought-about connection to the natural world and being outdoors.

lk_studies_003_front_page_layout_notes

Laughing Knees started 10 years ago today. I’ve been designing and redesigning elements of the design and layout again and again, never quite happy with what came up on the Web, or simply too unskilled to get it to be the way I wanted it to be. My original goal was to make the blog resemble pen-and-ink drawn illustrated books of the 1920’s, and of Tove Jansson’s wonderful, wonderful series of Moomintroll books. Alas, I could never quite figure out how to get the images in there. I’ve gotten the basics of CSS design and layout down, but not well enough to really do a good job controlling the elements.

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Study for a sidebar banner for Laughing Knees.

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Originally the blog was supposed to have a separate banner for each category, but at the time I didn’t understand what the difference between categories and tags was, and hadn’t quite understood the way that loops had to be used, so was never able to implement more than one banner for the whole site, except when I divided the website into 5 separate websites… way too much work!!!

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It took quite a few years to begin to really understand exactly how a website navigation system is supposed to work. Coming from books, I had a tendency to think in static pages, not quite getting my head around the fluid nature of hyperlinks. Because of that there was a lot of redundancy in both pages and links.


Naturally it wasn’t all the blog that was on my mind all those years. However, besides writing and photography, I’ve also spent countless hours drawing the world around me and figments of my imagination. Recently I took out 30 years of sketchbooks, backs of envelopes, napkins, and margins of tests and note-taking during boring work meetings, and started to scan what I hope are the more interesting outtakes. Here are a smattering I’ve started with:

field_notes_001_rock_meadow_massachusetts_1991

Drawing something helps you to understand something, and see it, much more comprehensively than taking a photograph does. I’ve been drawing and examining and sitting for hours watching insects, birds, plants, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, spiders, the wind and rain, clouds, mountains, and ocean waves all my life. I can’t imagine my life without them.

1994_04_15_yatsugatake_with_yumi_rainstorm

I have to been to the Yatsugatake Range more often than any other higher mountain range in Japan. I’ve been going there since I was 10 years old, staying at a school camp in Kiyosato. For some reason it holds a special place in my connection to mountains, seeming to pull me toward it every opportunity I had. I got married there, did my one and only hike with my father, wandered the higher trails crying my eyes out the week after my wife and I made the decision to get divorced, and immediately followed by the tragedy in New York on September 11, and slept for the first time in snow. A special place.

domestic_plant_studies 001

I’ve never been very good at taking care of plants at home, though I’ve always had some growing if just to bring in some life to the often dreary living quarters I had. I have doubts about keeping any kind of living thing captured, away from their natural homes.

notes_penmanship_practice

I love writing by hand and doing my best to make the writing look well proportioned and flowing. I started when I was in elementary school and am still learning to get the proportions right. Because of my diabetes my nerves don’t work so well anymore and at times it is very hard to get the pen to do my bidding. Practicing the writing helps keep me steady and to see new ways of forming the letters. I’m still not happy with my signature after a whole life attempting to get one I like!

ul_hiking_001

In the early days of my lightening up my backpacking load, I started out with this gear. The Hilleberg Akto tent was, at the time, one of the best lightweight solo tents around. 15 years have passed since I started, and along the way I went to the lightest I could get it to go, just about 3 kg. But when arriving in camp late in the evening in the cold and rain, with nothing but a long night under my tiny tarp to contend with, I began to miss being able to read or while away the hours with my camera. So I began to add back those things which allowed me basic creature comforts so I could enjoy the trips, just enough to make it worthwhile, but not so much that I ever got bogged down again. Ultralight changed the way I walk and spend time outdoors, or even traveling.

Beth 1991

It’s amazing how the women I’ve known in my life have changed me and unwittingly helped me to grow as a person. While not always tranquil, much of what I learned was an opening my eyes to both what other people are and how they see the world and want to live, as it was a growing understanding of who I am and what worth I have. Beth, probably more than any other woman I’ve known intimately, helped to understand that life is for living fully, no matter how difficult the circumstances. I will never forget her elfin smile and indomitable flair for adventure.

people_studies_002_plane passenger

Airplanes are like hell to me… an enclosed tube in which I must sit for many hours without moving. One way I pass the time is to draw sketches of people around me. It often helps me to empathize more with the often short-tempered or unpleasant reactions many of them have when I encounter them. Often it’s led to conversations and friendships.

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When you take the time to look, you will see tenderness everywhere. It isn’t all anger and violence and indifference, that seem all-prevading when you browse the Internet. This is what the world is made of and what keeps it beating. Without it where would we be?

1994_04_16_yatsugatake_with_yumi_climbing_akadake

View of Akadake, the highest peak in the Yatsugatake Range.

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Walking along a country road outside Kiyosato, in the Yatsugatake Range, Yamanashi Prefecture

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People are endlessly fascinating. I love sitting somewhere and just letting myself become part of the place, while watching people and drawing them in all their emotional and behavioral range. strange for someone who is very shy and doesn’t communicate easily with people…

nude_studies_001

It’s been a while since I did live model drawing, but it is still one of two of my favorite subjects to draw. The other is landscape drawing. Even though the subject is just a human being, the expressions you can discover and the connection that we humans have to one another becomes more and more apparent, and trying to bring that out without making it look like a caricature is one of the most difficult tasks an artist can try to master.

foot_studies_001

Hands and feet are among the most difficult parts of the human body to capture correctly. Especially the hands. I have a particular love for feet. They can be incredibly beautiful.

animal_studies_singapore_zoo_african_elephant

Zoos are very painful places for me to enter. Few zoos treat animals with enough knowledge and respect to allow them to live even close to their natural way of living, and I believe no animal should be in a zoo. But the Singapore Zoo was, to some extent, an exception. I wandered about the park-like grounds and spent hours drawing the inhabitants.