Archive for art

Points of View

Posted in Conceptual Art, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 3, 2012 by javedbabar

Though he was forced by The Authority to mix adults and teens, Alex’s first PIA: Philosophy In Art class had gone well. Everybody had contributed something to the session. He had chosen to focus on Japanese art; it was full of surprises but also somewhat familiar.

While the class settled down, Alex looked out of the window. He saw sunlight pouring onto Mt Alba. The mountain stood guard over Lucerne, glowing as white as he’d ever seen it. It seemed a pile of lost salt, ready to tumble or be blown away.

He decided to introduce Hokusai’s famous views of Mt Fuji. It was good to move students on to topics in an easy manner, as naturally as possible. How could he get them to Hokusai? Let’s start with what they knew already.

“Just the teens please. Who remembers any names from last week’s class?”

They began shouting out the names of popular characters, some previously mentioned and some new ones.

“Doraemon!”

“Pikachu!”

“Super Mario!”

“Hello Kitty!”

“Chimichanga!” said a boy with red hair and freckles. Even his classmates turned and frowned.

Alex said, “Come on class, you can do better than that!”

A boy called out, “Yoshitoshi!”

A girl replied with “Moshi moshi!”

There was a chorus of “Yoshitoshi!” followed by “Moshi moshi!”

“Yes, Yoshitoshi, but let’s not start all that again. Who knows another name? Adults can you please help me out? Yes, Hokusai! Thank you.”

“He was the son of a mirror-maker, which affected how he saw the world. Imagine seeing reflections, and reflections within reflections, all day long. How would that affect you? He became obsessed with a particular mountain. Who knows which one?”

“Mt Alba!” said a girl.

“Mt Negra!” said a boy.

“I’ll save some time. It was Mt Fuji. In a famous story called The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, a goddess deposits the Elixir of Life at its peak. Mt Fuji was then seen as a source of immortality. Amaterasu, the sun goddess, is also said to live there. There is a story about her and mirrors too, but I’ll tell you that another time.

“Hokusai revealed Mt Fuji in many ways – in different seasons and in changing weathers, with diverse people and animals, and from many places and varying distances. He did a series of a hundred views, but his most famous series has thirty-six views. Let’s take a look at that.”

They saw the Great Wave off Kanagawa causing fishermen to cling to their boats, and a little Mt Fuji far away calling them back to safety; the south wind and clear sky around a slim red Fuji, lashing rainstorms upon Fuji, viewing it beneath bridges, beyond pine forests, from mountain passes, fields, shops, temples and tea houses, from watermills, in boats, near bays, from lakes, its reflections, its cone smoking, rising beside rivers, above beaches, and alongside islands.

“How did he make them?” asked a girl.

“He drew the image on paper and used it to guide the cutting of the wood block beneath. He made different woodblocks for each colour.”

“That seems like a lot of work,” said the girl. “Did he make lots of money?”

“Not really. Mainly he just wanted to know Mt Fuji. To really know something we must look at it in many ways.”

He had an idea for a class exercise. “Next week, we will pick a topic and look at it in one hundred ways.” The class protested strongly. Most people were only used to one view – their view. Anything more was a challenge.

“Okay, we’ll just do thirty-six views.” There was still strong opposition.

Alex recalled that due to popular demand, Hokusai had added ten additional views to the thirty-six. “Okay, we’ll just do ten views.”

There were still protests, but not so many that they could not be overcome.

Yoshitoshi Moshi Moshi

Posted in Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 2, 2012 by javedbabar

Alex wasn’t sure if this art class was a good idea. He had wanted to teach only adults, but The Authority had a policy of community-building and insisted that classes at the Transparent Temple – nickname of their glassy community centre – should be open to all. The Official Response Document asked the question, “Do children benefit from inter-generational interaction and instruction?” and then answered it too, saying, “Yes, they do. They should thus be offered classes alongside adults.”

The school thought this was wonderful. It was a good way to stretch their resources – they could send Year Twelve students to Alex’s art class instead of running one themselves.

Alex’s first term focus was PIA: Philosophy In Art. Now with two audiences to please, he wondered if that would work well. Maybe he should simplify the topic and start with a particular style of art, and see how that went before broadening its intellectual scope.

The audience had self-segregated. Adults sat along the left of the room and teens along the right.

“Good morning everyone,” Alex said confidently. “Welcome to PIA:Philosophy In Art class. It is wonderful to have both adults and teens present. I am looking forward to hearing a wide range of views and opinions from you all. I’d like to start with a particular style today, something very distinctive. Who knows something about Japanese design?”

The teens were more enthusiastic than he’d supposed. Their hands shot up and they began calling out.

“Pac Man!”

“Manga!”

“Godzilla!”

“Transformers!”

“Pokemon!”

“Tomagotchi!”

Yu-Gi-Oh!”

This wasn’t really what Alex had wanted, but the last example was fortuitous. He decided to pick up on it.

“What is Yu-Gi-Oh? Oh, it’s a card game? The King of Games! Is it good? What are the characters like? Who is the main hero? So it’s Yugi Mutou? Thank you for enlightening me. I’ll prepare myself for battle! I’d like to introduce you to a similar word – Ukiyo-e. Can you say that?” Some of the class had a go.

“Well done! Ukiyo-e is traditional Japanese woodblock printing. Who has heard of Hokusai?”

Most adults put up their hands, but none of the teens.

“He was the son of a mirror-maker and became obsessed with Mt Fuji. He spent much of his life drawing it in surprising ways. Another artist is Hiroshige, the son of a fire fighter. When he was a child he loved to play with miniature landscapes, and later experimented with many different perspectives. The third artist I’d like to consider is Yoshitoshi. He lived in a time when feudal society was breaking down in Japan. It was a time of great chaos, and many of his images feature violence and death. So which of these artists shall we deal with first?”

A boy shouted out, “Yoshitoshi!”

A girl shouted out, “Moshi moshi!” Alex couldn’t help laughing. This was the usual way that Japanese people answered telephones.

A chant began in the classroom, with boys shouting out “Yoshitoshi!” and girls responding with “Moshi moshi!”

“Yoshitoshi!”

“Moshi moshi!”

“Yoshitoshi!”

“Moshi moshi!”

“Yoshitoshi!”

“Moshi moshi!”

Alex joined in with both chants. This class would be more fun than he’d supposed.

Art Attacks

Posted in Conceptual Art, Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience, Unknown with tags , , , , , , , , on May 9, 2012 by javedbabar

Naomi and her Uncle Bobby had begun by sketching a jungle, to which they’d added roads, railways, and power lines, then factories, media, and telecoms. They discussed developing it into a city but decided to stay with quality over quantity, and avoid the congestion, pollution, noise, crime, expense and stress of urban centres. Modern development can’t be stopped though. Transformation of rural landscape to urban jungle is inexorable.

The hub of the city remained the original village, but it became increasingly commercial, and residents could no longer afford the inflated rents. Houses became shops, and shops became factories, and factories became distribution centres. Lucerne village was essentially a CBD: Central Business District. New suburbs developed on what were once farms, and beyond them were exburbs – separate municipalities within easy commute. These rapid changes horrified Bobby, but Naomi was more relaxed about them. New parks and playgrounds, shops and salons, galleries and museums were all open to her, mostly within walking distance, and because she was in her own drawing she didn’t have to attend school. There wasn’t one.

As the city acquired administrative, legal, and historic status its attraction grew, and many more people came for trade, sometimes travelling great distances. Whether they acquired the resources they needed, and how much, and at what price, and how soon, was affected by the skills they offered, the goods they brought with them, and sometimes their physical size, used to threaten shopkeepers. Most transactions were performed in an orderly manner, but a group of public-minded citizens formed an association called Lookout Lucerne to keep an eye on things, just in case. Their navy blue jackets sporting LL were a reassuring presence in this fast-paced new world.

The new city thrived. People poured in for jobs and entertainment. So many of them in close proximity ignited creative sparks. “I feel itchy fingers,” said Bobby. “I don’t know what it means though.”

“What kind of itching is it?” said Naomi.

“It’s on the inside of my skin, like insects wanting to burst out.” Bobby itched and rubbed his fingers. “I wish I could scrub it from within.”

“Why don’t you just keep drawing till it goes away?” said Naomi. “That’s what I do. When my feet itch I dance, when my ears itch I play music, and when my tummy rumbles I eat.”

Bobby picked some of her fat coloured pencils and got busy. He filled the pages of his hardback notebook with flowing music, dancing, painting, drama, film storyboards and sculptures, all merging together and pulling apart. The galleries, theatres, and concerts halls of their new city were busy, and most performances were sold out, but Naomi always comp’d tickets for herself and Uncle Bobby.

This place had a fierce creativity. The Authority recognized artistic hotspots as “growth points” and used them to fuel local economic activity. As people became more productive and creative, they began to seek answers to questions they had never asked. They debated metaphysics and moral philosophy, studied logic, explored aesthetics, and sought guidance from spiritual teachers, the most prominent of whom were Guru Baba and Ozwald Malchizedek (OM).

Guru Baba was a traditionalist who urged them to focus on meditation and prayer, and slowly develop their souls. He said, “One day you will reach yourselves.”

OM was a modern master pursuing a sensualist approach, who said the natural way was for humans to follow the Principle of Pleasure (POP). He instructed them to see, smell, taste, hear, and touch whatever gave them immediate joy. “Enjoy every day,” he said, “and tomorrow will take care of itself.”

OM’s teachings inspired a popular street art movement. Huge, red-lipped flowers filled civic buildings, golden rockets blasted off office blocks, blue sweating monkeys swung about poles, and black babies floated along factory walls. There were pickled whales in swimming pools, and corpses having sex suspended from street signs. Someone made a life size OM out of garbage. It was a deep comment on the cyclic nature of existence.

This Muse Infuse movement said that there should be unfettered art everywhere. There were occasional disputes about the quality and quantity of works, and who’d created them, but these were quickly resolved by Lookout Lucerne members. They meted out harsh punishments – a white man accused of tagging a black man’s work had his hands cut off. Similarly a black man drawing a white woman was castrated. The Authority agreed that multi-cultural harmony must be preserved at all costs. Soon art was seen as too dangerous to be left to the public. One of OM’s followers, known as Strong Man, rebelled and formed a splinter movement which took control of the streets and banned art entirely. Lookout Lucerne units were instructed to perform Art Attacks.

“What do we do now, Uncle Bobby?”

He said, “I guess we’d better stop drawing.”

Shitty Brown

Posted in Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience with tags , , , , , on April 16, 2012 by javedbabar

“I’m looking forward to the art class,” said Irene. “It’s been years since I’ve painted anything. It will be fun I think.” James stared past her towards the front windows, where light poured in. He seemed to prefer facing that direction, not that he could tell her himself. She just had a feeling.

She enjoyed her daily visit to Open Hearts seniors daycare centre. It got her out of the house, and she’d made a couple of friends now. Most of all she liked to spend time with James, who had been her soulmate in many lifetimes, even though she’d found him too late in this life to share much, and his stroke had left him unresponsive to her and everybody else.

What did he do all day, she wondered? What did he think? What did he feel? What was it like to be locked up inside yourself, unable to share your thoughts and dreams? Poor James. Her James. King James. She said to him, “Okay darling, I’m going to see Mr. Amin to see if I can help today. He seems to appreciate my assistance.”

Mr. Amin said, “Irene! Nice to see you.” She wondered if they had magic imps in India? If they did, then he would definitely be one of them. “The art teacher will be arriving at ten. Would you please help her to set up when she comes.”

Mr. Amin was amazing. Where did he find resources for these kinds of activities? The Authority had cut back severely on funding. Public services were closing down everywhere, yet Open Hearts was running smoothly with cultural activities weekly, even twice weekly. They’d recently been taught a dance called Zumba, Egyptian belly dancing, healthy cooking, pottery, origami, and rapping – at which ex-cowboy Albert excelled, though Mr. Amin was displeased with the continual rhyming of his name with gold pannin’ and jammin’; “It is pronounced A-meen,” he said. “Not Am-in.” Albert had then rhymed his name with spleen and unseen, and obscene and latrine, at which point Mr. Amin had asked him to stop.

Irene helped the teacher lay out paper, paints, brushes, and pots. She hadn’t brought many colours – just the basics: red, yellow, blue, black and white. Enough to make something garish like they would have produced when children. Maybe they would succeed in mixing subtler shades. From what she recalled though, mix too much and you end up with shitty brown. There was enough of that around here already.

Mr. Amin called everybody together. Not everyone wanted to join in though, and not everyone was able to. Her James for example just sat to one side, staring. How could he engage? Never mind a paintbrush, he could barely hold his spoon.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” said Mr. Amin. “Here is our teacher, Stella. She has been an artist for twenty years, and has kindly agreed to deliver a six-week art course at Open Hearts.”

“If she’s an artist, then why isn’t she making art?” said Gemma.

“What do you mean by that?” said Mr. Amin.

“Isn’t there a saying: ‘Those that can do, and those that can’t teach’?”

There was an embarrassed silence, broken by Stella. “Actually I do both. I teach two days a week and paint three days. I’ll invite you all to ‘Being Become’, my next exhibition in the City. Mr. Amin, would you be able to arrange the transport?” He nodded. “Good. Let’s begin. Why do we make art?”

“Because it’s lovely?” said Irene. “It improves our environment.”

“Yes, it does. Anybody else?”

Mr. Amin couldn’t help joining in. He said that we had a basic instinct for harmony, balance, and rhythm. We desired experience of the mysterious. It was an expression of the imagination. It held ritualistic and symbolic functions. Nobody needed reminding that he had once been the Minister of Culture for Northern India, before retiring to Canadia to be near his grandchildren.

Stella said, “I think you’ve covered everything, Mr. Amin. Shall we begin?”

People fiddled about, knocked over water, got paint on their clothes, bent brushes, and ripped paper, but eventually paint made it onto paper, and artworks “became”.

Nobody noticed James rise. He shuffled over to the central table and seated himself before an art station. “What’s he doing?” Gemma said. “Watch out, he’ll make a big mess.” Stella helped him to get started, and he continued independently. It was true though, he was making a mess. There were patches of colour beside and then atop each other, which quickly fused into browns. Shitty browns. It was time for lunch, and they went to the dining area for oil-free chicken curry with chick pea rice. James stayed where he was, manifesting his vision.

Mr. Amin went to check on his progress. As Minister of Culture he had considered all manner of artworks for purchase and display in national museums. From Mughal miniatures to pickled sharks. He saw that there was merit in this painting. Within the shitty brown he saw a strong story emerging. He saw two trails of colours joining, separating, and rejoining, arching and twisting, fading and reforming – losing and then finding each other – yet their forms were always entwined.

Arty

Posted in Conceptual Art, Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience with tags , , , , , on March 20, 2012 by javedbabar

“Thanks for coming,” said Mr. Jameson, Recreation Manager of the Community Centre, aka. The Transparent Temple. “Would you like some tea?”

“Er, do you have some coffee?” said the journalist. “I’m not really a tea drinker.”

“I’m sorry we don’t. It’s Tea Awareness Month in the Village. All municipal facilities have only tea.” The journalist licked his lips as if trying to compare the two beverages. “And it’s also political. World Coffee Corp has taken over all the coffee shops in BC, so municipalities are promoting tea. Anyway, that’s a different story.”

“Yes, it is. Let’s talk about that next time. Yes tea would be fine, with milk and sugar please.”

Mr. Jameson served the tea, then seated himself opposite the journalist and said, “Would you like to ask questions, or shall I relate the whole story?”

“Just start at the beginning – tell me about the artist and how you acquired the artwork – and I’ll ask questions when I need to.”

“Ok then,” said Mr. Jameson. “We have a fabulous creative community in Lucerne. Artists first came here twenty years ago to escape the City, and rented old cabins here and there. The mountains and forests inspired them, and they had the isolation they craved.”

“How did they survive financially? Did they sell their works?”

Mr. Jameson smiled. “What’s the second largest industry in BC?”

“They grew pot? That was their income?”

“Well when they sold it they had income, and when they didn’t they smoked it and didn’t care.”

“That sounds like a good life to me,” said the journalist.

“Well it was initially. But then they got married, had kids, bought houses, and most got regular jobs. But some stayed out there literally. Unemployed or unemployable. Peter Stone never stopped working. He never sold anything, but never stopped working. He said it was his duty. His gift from God.”

“Is that a quote? Did he actually say ‘gift from God’?”

“Yes, he wrote it in his proposal. I can give you a copy if you like.” The journalist nodded. “Anyway, when we initiated the ABC – Art as Beautiful Community – program, he submitted work along with everybody else. He paints onto full-sized plywood panels; we thought it was too rough and rejected it. But then the large format painters we’d chosen – maybe you’ve seen Sharon Move’s old barns, and Wynn Kingston’s young bears – couldn’t commit their works for six months, due to upcoming shows. So we were left with Peter Stone. He’s an abstract painter, and we knew that his work would receive mixed reviews. The most prominent piece was Embrace of Infinity.”

The journalist said, “Do you have a picture of it? I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t seen it. I looked online but found nothing.”

Mr. Jameson nudged his file around the desk and said, “You won’t believe this, but we don’t have any pictures of it either.” He explained how none of the images appeared. All you saw was a blank plywood board. The paints were invisible. There was no explanation for it. The artist said that his work expressed the inexpressible. It was a work of light and shade.

“Tell me about the yoga class – the children’s one.”

“Well the painting was shown in the Great Hall for three months. Some people liked its raw energy and rough colours. They said its swirls reminded them of seasons, the weather, skiing, and moose rutting. But most thought it was pretty lame. Then we started a children’s yoga class on Wednesdays. One boy – who I can’t name for legal reasons – just sat there staring at the painting and wouldn’t move. The next week, two more boys joined him. The week after, the whole group sat before the painting and chanted, and the week after that too. We thought that yoga must be too intense for children, and cancelled the…”

The journalist interrupted. “That’s when I first heard about Embrace of Infinity. My colleague covered the yoga story. That poor teacher had a really hard time. I hear she’s left town and gone to live in an ashram.” Mr. Jameson raked his head up, indicating yes. “Is that when the City dealer came to the Transparent Temple?”

“You mean the Community Centre? I thought so. Yes he viewed the work then went to meet the artist in his cabin. He declared Peter Stone a genius and the work a masterpiece. He estimated its value at $12 million.”

“Where did that figure come from?” He tapped his pen. “It sounds pretty random?”

“Well I remember telling him that the Community Centre cost $12 million to build, and the next thing I know the painting’s worth the same.”

“What do you think? Is it worth $12 million? Look, is there any way that I can see it? I mean, this is a public building after all. Can’t I just have a little peek?”

Mr. Jameson shook his head. “I’m afraid that’s impossible. Even I can’t see it now. Due to the controversy the Great Hall is closed till further notice. Its windows are all covered, and the painting is guarded around the clock. It’s being removed by the dealer tomorrow. He’s found a wealthy buyer.”

“There are rumours that it’s World Coffee Corp’s owner.”

Mr. Jameson stiffened. “The Village has every right to sell it. We have a buy option for $1,000. It’s in the contract. I’ll give you a copy. It will pay off the Community Centre’s construction debts. It’s important that you give our side of the story.”

“And what about Peter Stone?”

“He has made violent threats against us. He is not allowed within 100 metres of the Community Centre.”

Burningham

Posted in Conceptual Art, Lucerne Village, Unknown with tags , , , , , on March 9, 2012 by javedbabar

Lucerne Arts Council had a good record with grants. Their writer-in-chief, Eric Voodoo, ensured that their annual roster of events was well funded; $3,000 from here, $2,000 from there, and you’ve soon got enough – at least enough to get started. You can top up funds with sales commissions, donations at the door, bar sales, and local sponsors.

This year had been a particularly good one. Their core event was always MADE – Music, Art, Dance, Expression – celebrating the community’s rich artistic offerings. This was followed by FADE, a fund-raiser for older artisans struggling to produce artworks as their minds and bodies fell apart. SADE was produced by the Upper Valley S&M sculpture community. JADE honoured the centenary of BC’s Chinese artists. PAID was the key sales event, encouraging visitors to slip their hands from their wine glasses down into their pockets, and for Gods’ sake buy something. RAID proved to be a self-fulfilling prophecy; it was busted and all of its “herbal artworks” confiscated. And the highlight for artists – though not necessarily for visitors – was LAID; where many artists put in a good performance. Due to clever use of bylaws, it was classified as a “mixed media/exercise” event and wasn’t busted.

Eric Voodoo stared at the one-page grant application form. Six million dollars was on offer! He usually ran these off like clockwork, but he’d better give this one some serious thought. It was unusual to be approached by a charity, but he wasn’t going to kick this gift horse in the mouth. Village 2 Village (V2V) raised awareness of third-world refugees. Could Westerners imagine leaving everything they owned behind, setting off in a convoy, and hoping for the best? This happened regularly in developing nations. They had no choice.

V2V was looking for a Canadian village to make the long journey to an American desert, live there for a week, and then return. It would be a well-publicised event, highlighting the plight of refugee-escapees. They realized that this was no easy task, and had allocated 50% of their annual budget to the event. Its PR value alone would be incalculable.

One morning Eric Voodoo awoke aflame. “Darling, I’ve got it!” he said.

“What’s that my love?” asked his artist-wife, Toni Yahoo.

“You know that we’ve always wanted to go to Burning Man? Well, here’s our chance! They want to move a village to the desert for a week. Let’s take Lucerne to Burning Man!”

Toni Yoodoo knew better than to dampen her artist-husband’s enthusiasm. And what’s not to like about a $6 million Village art project? It was she that coined the name of the new village, “Burningham”.

Eric Voodoo called V2V. “So just to check, you will arrange all the transport at this end, plus set up the infrastructure at that end – everything? The whole move will cost us nothing? And food, water, and fuel are all covered there too? How much cash do we get at this end – I mean cash in hand, not budget allocation? $1.5 million? I’ve organized some events myself; they all go over budget. What’s your contingency? Yep 25% is good. Ok, thank you. Expect our application.”

Toni Yahoo approached the Mayor and Council. They’d had an issue with her husband since his art attack on the Transparent Temple, and didn’t agree that it looked better as the Opaque Oracle. Cleaning costs were being calculated. It was a quiet time of year. A direct injection of $1.5 million into the local economy and a paid community holiday were enticing. Mayor and Council supported the application wholeheartedly, and signed up the whole Village. It was a historic, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And it would be a nice break from their anti-P2P campaigning.

The P2P pipeline was the most flexible channel in history, running from the Infinite City, through the US, into Mexico, with the ability to transport oil, gas, water, food, passengers, and freight. Its construction costs were 400% over budget, and it would cost $1 billion annually to run. This multi-purpose pipeline was deemed “Fundamental Framework” by Homeland Security, and every obstacle to its completion was bulldozed. But now that it was ready, a softer approach was needed.

“Ok honey, we’re all done,” said Toni Yoodoo.

“Great,” said her husband. “Did you set the sprinkler timers?”

“Yes, I’ve done that my love, and the lights, and thermostats. The house is locked and workshop alarmed – not that anyone will hear it.”

The convoy assembled in the Village centre, and headed down the Sea to Sky Highway, which was closed to other traffic this morning. Crowds cheered them in Strattus, and in Squashy, but people were strangely absent as they approached the City. Instead of leaving the Highway as expected, the convoy continued for six extra junctions, and then turned off. Security was very heavy here. V2V had no choice but to play along when Homeland Security had entered their offices. Every employee was shadowed by an agent. Some were replaced by agents.

“What’s going on?” said Eric Voodoo to the V2V worker accompanying their bus.

“Remain silent,” he said. “We’re about to enter the P2P tunnel. Say goodbye to your beloved Canadia. You won’t be coming back.” Eric Voodoo struggled but was restrained. The agent spoke into his radio. “Ok, the convoy is ready to enter the pipeline. Demolition of Lucerne can begin. Here’s to our first Multi-Resource-Hub in BC.”

Drawing

Posted in Conceptual Art, Mystical Experience, Unknown with tags , , on February 5, 2012 by javedbabar

“Let’s do drawing,” said Naomi.

“Sure, Sweetie,” said Bobby. “What would you like to draw?”

“Everything!”

“Well, we’ve got all day,” he said; his sister wouldn’t be picking her up till six. “Let’s see what we can do. I’ve got some paper in my printer; we can use that, and…”

“No! Not on paper,” said Naomi emphatically. “You have to draw in a proper book. Then it’s a proper drawing. Do you have a book?”

“Will this do?” he said, producing a hardback notebook with black cover.

“That’s perfect!” said Naomi, and found a good page.

“And let me get some pens, I’m not sure what…”

“I’ve got special pencils,” said Naomi. “I always use them for drawing. You can use them too.” She produced a dozen fat, coloured pencils with natural wood casings, their colour only indicated by the lead.

“Thank you,” said Bobby. “Shall we start?”

Naomi nodded, and said, “I’ll draw me, and you draw you.” She started with a circle for a head, and triangle-dress below; stick arms and legs were followed by pig-tails, hands, and shoes. Bobby drew himself: tall and thin, with red hair and beard. When he’d finished, he looked over Naomi’s drawing. She had added more details to herself. She now had facial features, folds and buttons on her dress, and some elbow and knee details. Much better than he’d expected.

“That’s great!” said Bobby. “How do I look?”

“You look ok,” said Naomi. “Let’s draw some other things.” She drew a star and sunflowers. He drew a tree and snake.

“Do you mind if I go and do a few things?” said Bobby. It wasn’t urgent, just checking his email and Facebook, but his habit was unbreakable.

“Ok,” she said. “But don’t be too long. You have to help me with drawing.”

When he came back after twenty minutes he was amazed. She had filled the page with thick jungle. The first tree, sunflowers, and snake were enclosed within it, with the lone star shining above. It was surprisingly good for a six-year-old.

“You took too long,” she said. “I had to do all the drawing myself.”

“I’m sorry, Naomi, there was something important,” he lied. “But I’m back now. What shall we do?”

“Let’s do colouring. Us first. I’ll do me, and you do you.” She filled in her dress bright blue, added shading in the creases, and brightened up the front and sides. She made her skin a realistic milky-golden, and her hair brown-black. She got the hues just right. Bobby thought, she’s got some talent, this one, and began to colour himself. He didn’t quite get it right though. His skin was the colour of potatoes, and his hair and beard seemed fire-engine accessories. He wasn’t pleased with his purple shirt either, which he’d wanted to make black; and was he really wearing turquoise trousers?

Naomi giggled. “You look funny!” she said. “Do you prefer that you, or this you?”

“I think I like this me,” said Bobby, tapping his chest.

“I like the other one!” said Naomi. “Shall I help you finish him?” Bobby nodded. “Ok, you can finish the other things.”

Naomi selected her pencils and got busy. Bobby didn’t want to waste too much time on this. He quickly coloured the star, sunflowers, snake, and tree. He started feeling drowsy. He’d forgotten how tiring it was playing with kids. They seemed to have unlimited energy and imagination, and were happy just being themselves. It was good being a kid! And it was tiring being an adult, with or without them. Even more tiring than usual today; what was going on?

Bobby realized that he was somewhere else. Where was the cabin? Where was Naomi? Where was he? All he could see was jungle everywhere. It was not green, but white – a ghost jungle. He looked at his hands, his arms, his legs – they were coloured naturally – but everything around him was plain.

Leaves rustled in the distance. He wondered whether to hide but then thought, “what from?” and stayed where he was. Leaves quivered close by, and a moment later, Naomi burst out of them. “Hey, you’re here too, Uncle Bobby! Isn’t this fun?”

“Where are we, Naomi?” Bobby was dazzled, and disorientated.

“We’re in the drawing of course.”

What – actually in the drawing?

“Yes, that’s what happens when you colour it nicely,” said Naomi. “Didn’t your parents ever take you to art galleries?”

“Sure they did. But only into the galleries. Not into the paintings.” Bobby couldn’t believe he was even having this conversation.

“Didn’t you ever go into the paintings?” Bobby shook his head. “Oh, I only mean into them a little bit, to look around. Only the painter can go into them properly, and see what they really are. But see – You came into my drawing! I know I helped you, but now you’re here. Let me find some other people.” She skipped back through the leaves, but then poked her head out and said, “Just wait here; I won’t be too long.”

Bobby sat on a tree stump – was there logging in drawings, he wondered? – trying to make sense of his situation. He felt cool darkness and turned around. Naomi’s sunflowers towered over him, their heads filled with teeth rather than seeds – looking like octopus mouths – walking hulkily towards him. Bobby ran away from them into a forest clearing. High above, Naomi’s star began pulsing and screeching. It sent down red death rays. Bobby ran faster and further, till he reached a giant tree, and became tangled in its strange branches. He sensed movement around him, a slithering and hissing. It was his own snake about to attack him in his own tree. He shouted, “Help me!”

There was a rustling nearby. Naomi popped out of the jungle. “Oh, sorry,” she said. “I should have given you some pencils. It’s hard the first time, till you get used to it. Then if you don’t like something, you just rub it out and redraw it. But don’t rush it this time; remember to colour it in nicely.