Progress of the Ziz

So many details, so many things that can be tweaked in animation. This version is sinuous and sin-wavy, including trunk and tail. It took a full day to make these changes that may hardly be noticed by some. But, I am curious, and I’m into the kinds of wave animation that are possible in Flash, that I didn’t fully explore in Sita Sings the Blues because this learning takes time.



The primordial sea monster makes an infinity sign.

The Stomping Behemoth

It moves! Animation test for my Behemoth design.

Behemoth Finalists

Now with bodies! No matter what I did, the Muse kept guiding me toward symmetry, especially adding the body. Yes it has 5 legs, like a Shedu. Yes it looks like a sheep. A powerful, gigantic, terrifying monster sheep. I still haven’t decided whether it will have 3 faces or 5.

2 legs bad, 4 legs good, 5 legs BEHEMOTH!

3 heads good, 5 heads better? Or vice-versa?

Choose your favorite Behemoth

Some Behemoth designs-in-progress, head only.

Behemoth 1

Behemoth 2

Behemoth 3

Behemoth 4

Like Leviathan, Behemoth is kosher, so I infer he/she/it is a cloven-hooved cud-chewer.


Shedus. Designs modified since yesterday’s post.

Piecing Water, or Why I’m Going to Make a Proper Pattern Next Time

I finally started the second in my series of “4 Elements” quilted tapestries: Water. Here’s the design:

Now, I’ve been avoiding proper pattern-making. I just print the thing out on multiple sheets of 11×17 paper, which I tape together and trace onto more taped-together sheets of freezer paper. Then I cut those out with a rotary cutter… Continue reading Piecing Water, or Why I’m Going to Make a Proper Pattern Next Time

Spiral In, Spiral Out

I’ve been drawing for so long, I forget what it feels like to learn how to draw. But once in a while, I learn something really basic for the first time. I wanted to write about it before I forget what it feels like.

The topic: spirals. I love ’em. I used ’em for clouds in Sita Sings the Blues:
cloud from Sita Sings the Blues

And for ocean waves in my fake-Moghul-minature style:
Lanka from Sita Sings the Blues

Now, I believe I can draw anything. That doesn’t mean I can just sit down and draw anything off the top of my head. What it really means is I can copy anything. Everything in my drawing memory banks originated from copying one thing or another at one time (notice how I used “originated” and “copying” in the same sentence). Everything I copy is stored somewhere in my head, and my muscles too – actually moving my hand around a shape forms my mind in a way that just looking doesn’t.

I’ve looked at a lot of pictures of Tibetan-style clouds. Some of these showed up in Indian art, in the Adventures of Hamzaa, the beautiful catalogue of which I owned until I left it behind with the bed bugs. Apparently Moghuls imported artists from all over Asia, which is why some Moghul miniatures are beautiful mish-mashes of Persian and Himalayan styles.

I saw the spirals in those cloud designs, so I drew clouds with spirals. They didn’t really look the same, which was fine – I wasn’t copying directly, merely being “influenced.” I made do with the spiral-drawing skills I had.

Fast-forward to today, and my new hobby: sewing. It turns out you can draw with an ordinary sewing machine! It’s called “free motion,” and I only learned it was possible last month. A few weeks ago I bought a machine and fabric and stuff, beginning another kind of spiral that’s taking over my life & apartment (more on that later). Drawing with a sewing machine is different from drawing conventionally in 2 significant ways:

  1. The “pen” stays still and you move the “paper” (fabric) around.
  2. You can’t lift the pen. It stays down the whole time.

#1 is simple in theory, but difficult in practice as I need to retrain my muscles. It’s like holding a pen for the first time, or drawing with my feet. I’m clumsy, for sure.

#2 seems simple – after all, isn’t drawing intricate designs with long meandering continuous lines what every stoned college kid does? Well, I haven’t been a college kid for 23 years, and I don’t get stoned (my few experiences with pot didn’t go very well). I never thought about how much I lift my pen. I usually draw with a lot of short strokes. I had to get in the stoned-doodling-college-kid mindset and keep my pen down.

I thought the cloud designs from SSTB would look nice quilted, so I used one in this, my first Trapunto experiment (more after the jump):
Continue reading Spiral In, Spiral Out

Amazing, Fantastic Books

I’m dazzled by too much brilliance today. First, there’s Graham Rawle’s masterpiece Woman’s World.

51xEA4aPkiL._SL210_It is so good. The whole thing is “written” in collaged snippets of old British women’s magazines. On top of that, the story is moving, suspenseful, and engaging from start to finish, as well as funny, deep and clever. For something that could stand on its own for being technically singular and “meta,” it packs an enormous emotional wallop.

It’s a sad comment on society that this book isn’t more widely famous. Still, I’m grateful just to have read it.

Rawle also has a blog where you can see his latest creations, including the weekly “Bright Ideas“.

Sanjay Patel's RamayanaNo sooner had I finished Woman’s World than I started Sanjay Patel‘s breathtakingly beautiful Ramayana: Divine Loophole. Sanjay and I joined the same Mutual Admiration Society a few years ago, before Sita was even finished. We independently developed graphic 2-D stylings of the Ramayana; his are more intricate and angular, while mine are more rounded and outlined. There’s been a wee bit of confusion among friends and Sita fans which I’d like to put to rest: I love this book, it’s not “edging in” on Sita’s “territory,” and y’all should admire a copy for yourselves. Besides, there is no Sita print book available, and if there were it wouldn’t be this good.

Its publisher, Chronicle Books, has conventionally stingy ideas about sharing images online; Michael Sporn had to scan his review copy himself. Fortunately, Sanjay has more images on his web site. Even if every image were available digitally, they wouldn’t compete with the physical beauty of the printed object. The production values of this thing are extraordinary. You want to touch it and smell it. Every page is printed crisply and perfectly, with color bleeding off each knife-sharp edge. It’s everything a graphic book should be, offering a sensual, immersive experience. Like one reviewer wrote, “I want to physically jump into this book.” It’s a container worthy of its content, restricted or not.

Your Family Tree

I’ve been thinking a lot about memes and genes lately, having finally read Richard Dawkins The Selfish Gene. Like genes, memes come from everywhere and are going everywhere, and just passing though any particular individual. Specific admixtures of memes or genes dilute pretty quickly, sharing only half their “uniqueness” with every preceding or subsequent generation. I attempted to illustrate this using font sizes. If the font representing “YOU” is 100%, then the adjacent generation (parent or child) is 50%,  and the generations subsequent to those (grandparent or grandchild) is again diminished 50% again, or 25% of “YOU.” The decline is exponential, and in just a few generations, nothing of your once-unique genetic identity remains.

click on image for larger version (4,000 pixels wide PNG)

click on image for larger version (4,000 pixels wide PNG)

It seems highly probable a Family Tree illustration like this exists already, but none turned up in my many google image searches. This one is of course CC-BY-SA, so feel free to share.

I was trying to illustrate something similar in this slide from a recent talk I gave at American University:

SitaTalk20100005You see where I’m going with this, right?

More examples: TMI?

OK my peeps, your feedback on the preceding post has been excellent. Here are 3 more images to compare and contrast:

talking heads no flowers.flaWhat’s happening here? Do we even need to put it into words?

talking heads 2

How about this? Does the addition of the flowers help, or hurt, or just make it different?

MemesInHistorySame idea, different rendering. This one has still more information – which might be confusing the point. It’s cuter, but it might be Too Much Information. Or maybe it’s Just Enough.

What do you think? The more I understand how you “read” these images, the better I’ll be able to “write” them. Big thanks to you.

Shadow Puppet Shirt Designs

By popular demand. Click on a thumbnail to see the image. Comments welcome.


puppet_sita_shirt0004.jpg puppet_sita_shirt0003.jpgpuppet_sita_shirt0002.jpgpuppet_sita_shirt0001.jpg

puppet_rama_shirt0004.jpg puppet_rama_shirt0003.jpgpuppet_rama_shirt0002.jpgpuppet_rama_shirt0001.jpg




Down in the T-shirt mines…

I spent today designing T shirts, and am making decisions regarding the silk screen process. Silkscreen looks great; it uses FLAT (“spot”) colors; and it costs more for every color used. More colors = significantly more expensive shirt, since every color gets a separate screen press.

So I’ve got two approaches:
1. colorful shirts using 6 to 8 colors = EXPENSIVE
2. one-color shirts (using gold in my examples) = CHEAP

What do you think? I’m working in a vacuum here and need some feedback.



More images after the fold.

Continue reading Down in the T-shirt mines…

Thank You Free Culture

How many independent animators get a Bangok high fashion line named after their film? None, unless they let people share:

“First of the treats for fans of the brand this year is the presentation of its Spring/Summer 2009 collection. Titled “Sita Sings the Blues” after the stunning animation film by US cartoonist/artist Nina Paley, the collection was unveiled for the first time to fans and fashionistas in the form of a choreographed presentation against the backdrop of the famed animation….” link

Sita DVD announcement list

We’re almost done authoring the Sita Sings the Blues DVD packaging and getting an order fulfillment service to ship it. Meanwhile, here’s something to do: sign up here with just your email address, and we’ll send you an mail with ordering information as soon as it’s ready.

Because the “content” is free – you can download it all online – what we’re actually selling is DVD packaging, not the film itself. This includes a nicely printed full color recycled cardstock “eco” case, and a silkscreened “pre-downloaded” DVD with the film and various features like subtitles, the trailer, and some video interviews of me ranting about copyright. The DVD is a nice package, a real object, and you can actually own it – it’ll still be there even if the internet (or your connection to it) disappears.

We’re planning two “Official” editions of the DVD packaging. The basic consumer version will be about $20:


Then there’s the Artist’s Edition, which will be about $100. This will be a more elaborate package – 6 panels instead of 4 – numbered and signed by me. This edition will be limited to 4,999. Why 4,999? Because for every 5,000 DVDs sold, I have to make additional payments (beyond the $50,000 I have already paid) to the corporations that hold copyright monopolies on some of the music used in the film.  I don’t believe culture can be owned, and I’ve released my film under a free license to ensure that it can never be similarly trapped, but as long as the government enforces these monopolies, I must count DVDs.

Artist’s Edition

The cover art isn’t final but will be in a few days. I could use the “happy Sita” image on the artist’s edition, and the “artsy Sita” on the consumer version. Leave your suggestions now or forever hold your peace. Thanks!