Rats on the Road

Gaijin Desu!

let’s laugh at the tourist

There was a time, not all that long ago, when the very sight of a foreigner in Japan would provoke shouts of Gaijin! Never could figure out who it was aimed at. Everyone else could see for themselves that there was a foreigner in the vicinity—and the foreigner did not need to be told.

Somehow the English word “foreigner!” doesn’t have the same zip. Gaijin, qallunaaq, haole . . .

The Grand Tour

1. On the Grand Tour

stained-glass window

Here I’m playing with techniques. In “Grand Tour” and “Belgium” the whole window was filled in with crayon and then painted over in solid black; later the paint was scratched away. In “Rose Window” the black background came first, followed by oil pastels.

2. If it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium

stained-glass window lighting the floor

. . . and if it’s Tuesday morning, light will be shining through the window. Same technique for floor and window.

3. Rose Window

stained-glass window

The Evangelists

two stained-glass pictures

There were originally supposed to be two paintings. A diptych of diptychs, if you want to be fancy about it. One for Matthew and Mark, one for Luke and John.

After I did this one, I looked up the evangelists’ associated symbols. Turned out I’d got it wrong. All four of them are shown with a book, and all four also have an associated animal.

So I left it at one picture. On the left is your generic evangelist—who happens to be Matthew—and on the right is Mark with associated, er, feline.

Christmas Down Under

basking on the beach

You may have seen the smiley that inspired this picture. All I had to do was make it nine times wider and eight times taller. But then, isn’t everything bigger in Oz?

beach emoticon I don’t know who originally created it, and I don’t suppose there exists a master directory of Smiley Creators out there somewhere. Consider yourself duly appreciated, whoever you are.

Tourist Trap

garden maze

The grand old English garden mazes such as the one at Hampton Court have been tourist attractions for generations. I read (in a Georgette Heyer novel, I’m afraid) that they kept a man stationed in a high seat, like a lifeguard’s seat, with a view of the whole maze. If a visitor got stuck, this man would be able to call out directions to the exit.

If rats came to visit such a maze, could there be any question what they would expect to find in the middle?

But the Sign Says...

wall labeled “DO(N’T)”

The studio director mentioned to a class that you don’t want to use orange and purple in the same picture because it will come out looking garish. Naturally this kind of statement is a challenge to me—a red flag, let’s say—so I worked out a design involving orange and purple rats.

But then I made a mistake. Before painting the rats I filled in the background: a low-key light brown to avoid pulling attention away from the foreground. And it looked so nice with white rats that it had to stay that way. The only trace of red, orange and purple is in the shading.

That was the second mistake. The first turned out to be serendipity. The word “DON’T” was too far off-center. To balance the picture, I colored in only the first two letters. So there’s your title.

the same in syllabics


Inevitable follow-up question: How would one convey the same message in Inuk­titut?

Best guess: illegible-squiggle-ᑦᑕᐃᓕ-further-illegible-squiggle, with an option on ᒋᑦ for the final piece.

It’s Aunt Tillie!

pictures at an exhibition

You may interpret the exclamation mark any way you like.

Maybe it’s astounded discovery: “I’ll be jiggered! That’s Aunt Tillie in that volup­tuous pose!”

Or maybe it’s family pride: “Aunt Tillie was the artist’s favorite model!”

Star Light, Star Bright

two more looking at a star

If you wanted to split hairs, you could point out that the first star you see at night may not be a star at all. Half of the time it’s probably Venus. But it’s definitely bright.

Homeward Bound

rat returning to the lighthouse

Most rats are social animals. You can even have unrelated adult males living together. But some rats prefer to live all by themselves, far from the madd(en)ing crowd.