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NEBULA • Personal work • 2015 • 11”x14” mixed media

Print available!

Revisiting my Planet Horse series (now perhaps more accurately called the Celestial Horses), this is the latest and largest edition: Nebula.

Unlike the others, which were all modeled off existing horse breeds, Nebula sprung right out of my imagination—but she looks like some sort of warmblood. I used references from the Cat’s Eye and Helix nebulae and the Westerlund 2 cluster. Her sigil, in the lower left-hand corner, represents the rings of expanding gases found in many planetary nebulae.

Acrylic ink, colored pencils and metallic pen on 11”x14” watercolor paper. Original will be going to AnthroCon!

When complete, the Celestial Horses will include the four gas giants, with a re-worked Ouranos (Uranus), along with Nebula and the Sun & Moon. They are the stylistic siblings of my Elemental Horse series (Fire, Air, Water, Earth and Wood, Metal) and together they constitute the Fantastic Equines series.

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OURANOS 2015 • personal work

Mixed media: acrylic ink, colored pencil and metallic pen on 9”x12” bristol board.

Print available! Progress pics here!

This is a redone version of the original Ouranos of my Planet Horse series from 2013. In this incarnation, Ouranos—third of the gas giants and first of the ice giants—is modeled off both a Lippizaner and an Arabian. They are depicted in a trotting side-pass, or traverse, a reference to the planet’s tilted orbit. Better known by the Latinized version of their name, Uranus was the primordial god of the heavens, the father of Saturn and the grandfather of Jupiter. The patterns running along the left and right borders mimic the arrow of Ouranos’s planetary symbol, while the curls and circles reflect its whirling clouds and vertical ring system.

Though I was pleased with the overall set, I was dissatisfied with Ouranos. Since I’m planning on producing a calendar consisting of the entire Fantastic Equines series, I took the opportunity to remake Ouranos—this time in landscape format. I also adjusted the pose and border, and overall I am much happier with this version. I also changed them from a pure aqua-blue to an “aqua palomino” which I felt added some much-needed variation to the color scheme.

Credit where credit is due: I knew I wanted to pose Ouranos side-passing from the front, but was unsure if I could find adequate reference photos. It is not something horses do naturally, but when they do it looks incredible. Thankfully, I found the perfect reference, and though I took enormous artistic liberties, it heavily influenced the end result.

Original will be going to AnthroCon!

See the rest of the Fantastic Equines (including the original Ouranos from 2013) over here!

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One of the things I was taught when I attended a first aid class was to make sure, before I attempted to help anyone, that it was safe for me to do so. To make sure that I was not putting myself in danger by helping a person in distress—whether from an environmental factor like a fire, flood or toxic gas, or even from the person I was trying to help. The gist being: you can’t help someone if you get into trouble—that just makes more trouble for the EMTs when they show up.

It was not an unfamiliar concept to me. At the time, I’d been working and playing in and on and around rivers for many years, and the number one rule of helping a drowning person is: don’t go in after them. Throw them a flotation device, or a rope, but then only if there’s a safe place for you to stand.) Because you don’t want to be drowning number two—or even the person who drowned getting the other person out.

So the idea that you had to make sure of your own safety before providing aid to someone else made perfect sense.

Changing gears for a moment. A while back I had a visit from a friend. Said friend was going through some tough times, and the stress from this was sending them into periodic bouts of depression and anxiety. In the time they were staying with me I tried to render such care as I was able in the form of getting them outside, providing entertaining distractions, cooking them tasty and nourishing food, and giving as much practical advice as I was able.

But before I did any of that, I made sure of two things: (1) that every day  I got an appreciable amount of exercise, and (2) I got a similar amount of writing done. These essentials were entirely for my own benefit, and though it meant leaving my friend alone at times when I’d rather have not, I recognized that these were non-negotiable levels of care for myself. Taking care of my own baseline needs first was what allowed me to devote the rest of my time and energy to helping my friend, without developing any resentment which would have inevitably poisoned our time together and ruined the visit. And because I was able to be so generous with them, they were better able to deal with their own problems, which made the visit more enjoyable for both of us.

What I was doing in this instance was an emotional version of making sure the scene was safe before providing aid. By putting my own basic needs first I was performing the emotional equivalent of making sure the road was clear before running into the middle of it to save a lost toddler.

Yet as simple and sensible a concept as this is, it can be surprisingly difficult to practice. As a species we are inclined to help people we perceive to be in trouble. As a society we are encouraged (through the glorification of heroes, both real and fictional) to provide this help at any cost.

I live in a town built around a river. There are annual drownings. More often than not, they come in pairs—or more—because someone jumped in to try to save their son, their brother, or their dog. This happens even when the first victim is in a torrent of raging whitewater—something that’s obviously dangerous.

The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation has recognized this problem and offers a course of training, through their Everyone Goes Home program, designed to help firefighters recognize when a situation has become unacceptably dangerous, and how to protect themselves when this happens. It is called Courage To Be Safe, and highlights the courage it takes to not run into a burning building when doing so would jeopardize your life or the lives of your colleagues.

Let me boil that down for you: our desire as a species and a society to save other people is so strong that we have had to come up with a provocative slogan to help people resist the urge to walk into a fire.

With this in mind, it should come as no surprise how frequently people get themselves into trouble trying to render other kinds of aid when it is not safe for them to do so. I’ve seen people over-extend themselves trying to help people who are, sometimes through no fault of their own, emotional or financial black holes. One could pour loving care and money into these people forever, and they would not get better. All that happens is the caregiver winds up emotionally destroyed or financially compromised, or both.

Con artists take advantage of this desire to help as well. By presenting themselves as people in need they stir up sympathy and soften their marks. Stalkers and creeps take blatant advantage of people—particularly female people—and their desire not to cause offense and to tolerate inappropriate behavior. Listening to stories of women who were harassed in public, when they are asked why they didn’t speak up, one often hears a refrain of “I didn’t want to embarrass him!”

And you can sneer, if you want. Or point out that he was already making them far more uncomfortable, and was taking advantage of their politeness to behave outrageously. But remember: immediate, physical danger is the easiest to react to. If our natural senses of self-protection can be so easily overturned in the face of roaring whitewater, or a burning building, then we really cannot fault people who allow their judgment to be compromised by much subtler dangers—even if, in the long run, they can turn out to be just as deadly.

Which is why I think it’s worth it for everyone to take a first aid class. Not only will you learn useful skills with which to functionally help someone, you’ll absorb the basic principle that you should protect yourself, which can then be applied to all manner of situations.

It is unlikely for the vast majority of us that we will have to resuscitate anyone, or treat a bullet wound in the field. But it is very likely—almost assured—that at some point in our lives we will be put in the position of wanting to render financial or emotional aid that would put us in danger. At that point it is imperative that we remember that our safety comes first, and no matter what outside pressures are on us, our safety and well-being are paramount: since only from a place of security and strength can we truly help someone. Anything else is just jumping into a raging river to save a person who might smother and drown you, instead. At best, we’re making things more difficult for everyone else, since there are now two people in trouble. At worst, we’re getting ourselves killed.

So don’t jump in. Find a good, safe, solid place to anchor yourself, and throw a rope.

And if you can’t do that, then you can’t help them. Which happens sometimes. And it will be hard to walk away. That’s okay; that’s good. That’s why they call it Courage To Be Safe. But by not putting yourself in danger you are already saving someone: you are saving yourself.

And for all you know, saving yourself today might mean you’re there, in a safe position of strength, to save someone else tomorrow.

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I had to put my horse down yesterday. It has been a hard couple of weeks, and I am a cauldron of conflicting emotions right now. My horse—her name is Emmy—has been a huge part of my life for almost twenty years. I’ve had her since she was six and I was eleven, and in many ways she shaped the human being I am today. It is, both literally and figuratively, a bigger deal than a dog or a cat dying—which as any pet-owner will tell you, is more like losing a family member than a mere animal.

I’ve loved horses for as long as I can remember. I took a few lessons when I was four, but as my family lived in the Bay Area at the time, actually owning a horse was impossible. Then we moved to the country. This was in 1993, and I am told I would wander around singing “Somewhere out there, a horse is waiting for me…” to the tune from the American Tail song.

At that time, on the other side of the continent, a little sorrel filly came into the world. Half Quarter Horse, half Appaloosa, she was registered as the latter under the name Empress of King and eventually shipped off to the World Show in Texas. There she was purchased by the woman who had, by that time, become my riding instructor. Three years later, when she went up for sale, my childhood dream came true, and I became the owner of a very real, very opinionated horse. We have been together ever since. Until now.

Now it is sixteen years later, and for the first time in my adult life I am facing a world without Emmy in it.

It is always difficult when someone you love dies. With horses there is the particular difficulty of when to call it a day and have them euthanized. There are a lot of reasons to do this, ranging from the coldly practical (one cannot afford the treatment necessary for their continued survival) to the pragmatic (the horse is terminally ill and will die a slow and painful death otherwise). Nothing is easy and everything hurts, and even though I’d seen other horses die, even though I’d watched other horse owners go through this, Emmy was my first and only, and the experience was a new and frightening one.

But not unexpected. Over the course of her respectable life Emmy has pulled numerous stunts that left me sick and shaking and wondering if This Was It. Whether it was the chronic lameness that affected her left forefoot (the result of an injury sustained from show jumping and the reason she got to spend the last thirteen years of her life as a rambling trail horse) or one of her recurrent bouts of sand colic could have easily culminated in that last critical visit to the vet. They gave me the opportunity to think about the inevitable end, and consider of the few options that were within my control, what I would want to do.

Knowing what you want to do is different from actually doing it, however. The doing is harder. And it was a bittersweet consolation that nothing that I could do something about actually got her. It wasn’t her problematic feet or testy gut that proved her downfall, but that unavoidable killer: a Sudden and Unexpected Cancer.

What began as a mysterious infection that defied diagnosis was eventually identified, after a biopsy, as cancer. When the word came, Emmy was already on serious painkillers and steroids, and it was mostly a confirmation of what we already suspected. We had known something was wrong since late April, but by the time we had the diagnosis it was clear she didn’t have much time left. Which stung, because she was still very much Alive and spirited and full of the Emmyness that made her such a difficult horse for some people—and the perfect horse for me.

It is a particular kind of horror to see the end approaching. At the same time it gave me the chance to get a jump start on the grieving process, and it helped that the person I was grieving was still around to nicker at me and blow snot on my shirt.

It came in waves. One moment I would be fine—the next a fountain. It hurt, but in that sharp, pure way—like cleaning a wound. The weekend after we got the word I went house-sitting for someone with an outdoors bed. It was a strange kind of comfort, getting to sleep under the stars and step, for a while, out of my own life.

I spent more time with Emmy during the last week of her life than I had since we were showing. Even in the country I was obliged to board her, and lately my creative work has impacted my time such that I could only ride her once a week. At the end, however, she needed medication twice a day, and lots of help keeping cool in our California summer weather. The eleven-year-old me would have whined incessantly and thrown fits over the amount of work involved. The twenty-seven-year-old me was downright thrilled to have the excuse to see so much of Emmy.

It felt like coasting. Like the completion of some long, arduous project. Caring for a horse takes a lot out of a person, and it’s not uncommon for horses to be sold once the glamour wears off, or to be outright abandoned. Even if I hadn’t loved Emmy with all my heart I wouldn’t have done that to her. I was determined to be the best owner I could be, no matter how much it hurt or how early I had to get up or how unpleasant it was to force-feed her banamine paste. I cleaned stalls for lunch money for ten years and grew to resent it. Cleaning Emmy’s stall felt like a privilege. For all I was heartbroken that This really Was It, it came with its own strange sense of achievement. I had made it, in a way that many people didn’t. I hadn’t lost interest or given up or run away. I was still here, with my horse, and wouldn’t have it any other way.

If there can be an advantage to death by cancer, it is that it does give you at least a little grace period to say good-bye. To do the things that need to be done; to prepare. Strangely, as far as me and Emmy were concerned, there was nothing left to do. We had ridden the trails. We had jumped the jumps. Swum the rivers. Pictures had been taken and carrots had been eaten. We had been doing all the things we wanted to do for the last decade, and I could say with complete confidence that I had no regrets—save that the end had come rather sooner than I would have liked.

There were practical considerations to be taken into account: two things I had decided long ago: that if Emmy was to be euthanized, I was to be there, and that her body would not be burned or buried, but studied. Luckily my vet was more than happy to arrange both things, but it was still an added burden on top of everything else.

It made me feel sick to my stomach to think of taking Emmy (still so bright-eyed and perky) to what was essentially an early death. Even after she began to visibly decline it was hard. I have seen animals who are ready to go—they get a dull look in their eyes which tells you they are not so much going quietly into that good night, but crawling desperately toward it. Emmy never looked like that, which in a way was a good thing. The whole point of euthanasia is to prevent needless suffering, and it wasn’t as if she was in any way healthy. The only thing keeping her head up at that point was a lot of medicine that, in the last days, she absolutely hated.

It felt like going up against a cheese grater. Everything I had done as a horse owner up until that point had been with the aim of helping her get and stay better. To turn around and say “this is enough, it’s time to end,” felt like pushing my face into a torrent of ice-cold water. It was All Wrong.

It is one thing to know what you have to do; it is another thing to do it.

What I did was realize that my role was no longer that of her owner. I was now her psychopomp; her ferryman; her escort out of this world. Thinking of it like that allowed me to keep myself together long enough to fulfill my final responsibility.

We walked down to the gates of Tartarus together and I let her go on the banks of the Styx. I handed her off to a death that came softly, on a bright summer morning, before the air grew oppressively hot and while the birds still sang.

Death brings a lot of nevers. Never again will we gallop over the hills, weaving perilously between trees. Never will I crack my head open on said trees or take a fall. Never again will I greet her in the morning with a fresh flake of hay. Never again will I be interrupted from a peaceful evening with word that my horse is convulsing on the ground, and I must get over to the ranch immediately. I will never wash her tail again. I will never be struck in the eye with said tail. Never will I see her running, for she has fallen: I watched her go. Never again will I see her fall: for she is over, her fire extinguished.

She carried me, but in many ways she was also a burden, and one I was not always happy to bear. Now she is gone I miss the weight, and I find myself floating free and lonely, cut loose from my anchor.

Somewhere out there perhaps there is another horse—probably a mare—who is a little too temperamental, a little too opinionated, who likes things her own way and has a tendency to buck. Maybe, one day, we shall find each other, and begin the journey again.

But she will have to wait a while longer.

For now, I am finished here.

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ODS1Giveaway

So I’m doing a kind of cool thing. Sort of. I hope. Basically, I’ve made some tumblr posts and tweets of the Professor Odd single covers for season one, and I’m giving away gift codes to people who share them!

If you got here from Twitter, here’s what you need to know:

Retweet any or all of these tweets:

  1. The False Student
  2. The Slowly Dying Planet
  3. The Promethean Predicament
  4. The Elder Machine
  5. The Dragons of Geda
  6. The Monster’s Daughter

And follow @GrimbyTweets, and I’ll DM you a code to download the respective title from the iBookstore. E.g. if you retweet Episode 1, you’ll get a code for Episode 1. Retweet #4 and you’ll get one for #4. Easy as that! You only have to follow me so I can DM you; if you RT but don’t follow I can’t DM you.

You may retweet any or all of the tweets—but only the first retweet counts. So only one code per title. Faves are appreciated, but don’t count.

If you only want to spread the word, add “Signal Boost” to your RT.

If it’s been over two days since you RT’d and you haven’t received a code, make sure you’re following me and send a public tweet @GrimbyTweets to get my attention.

This offer is good through the end of June or until I run out of codes—whichever comes first. Codes are valid for four weeks, and only redeemable on the Apple iBookstore. Also, pursuant to their legal agreement, I can only provide codes to people in countries where my books are available in the Apple iBookstore (which is practically everywhere the iBookstore exists), and must ascertain their country of residence in order to give them the correct legal jumbo attached to the use of the code.

I’m also running the same game on my tumblr, which works pretty much the same way:

Reblog any or all of these posts:

  1. The False Student
  2. The Slowly Dying Planet
  3. The Promethean Predicament
  4. The Elder Machine
  5. The Dragons of Geda
  6. The Monster’s Daughter

And you will receive an Ask from my account with a gift code to download the respective title from the iBookstore.

You must have a Tumblr account (duh) with Asks enabled!

You may reblog any or all of the posts—but only the first reblog counts. So only one code per title.

Again, likes are appreciated, but don’t count. If you only want to spread the word, tag your reblog with “signal boost.”

If it has been over two days since you reblogged and you haven’t got a code, send me an ask stating such and I’ll get it taken care of!

That’s all! Codes can be used by anybody, so feel free to get them on behalf of friends! Coworkers! Your dog! Or keep them for yourself, if you’ve been curious about Professor Odd but haven’t been sure where to start.

~G

 

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or A TRIBUTE TO ALECTOR

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11”x14” watercolor and ink, 2014-2015 • Print Available! • Click for full view.

Original is for sale! Drop me a line if interested.

A personal piece I sketched out almost a year ago, which I’ve been nursing along ever since. Unlike many of my works, this one’s meaning changed a lot over the course of its creation. At the time I drafted it I was writing a novel where wolves were the protectors of a forest, much to the protagonist’s surprise, and I was also inspired by Alector Fencer’s plant spirit character, so that was where the wolf spirit came from. I toyed with the notion of elk and deer as being enemies of the forest, since they eat it after all, but as I finished the piece I realized that the guardian/enemy dynamic was not what the picture was about.

That wolf spirit is not a wood spirit at all, but the Death of Deer. The Death of Deer looks like a wolf, fittingly enough, but it is made of plants and leaves, representing the circle of life as the deer’s body returns to the earth to provide nutrients for the plants which it consumed while it was alive. I can only imagine this deer had a harder time than most letting go, which was what prompted the personal attention of the Death of Deer.

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For this week only (May 9 – 15) the first hit is free (if it’s the iTunes eBook). Now is as good a time as any to get yourself introduced to the series! The Season Two premier, The Dogs of Canary Island, is coming this summer in the Aphelion 2015 issue of Apsis Fiction.

More about Professor Odd here.

Professor Odd Season One

  1. The False Student
  2. The Slowly Dying Planet
  3. The Promethean Predicament
  4. The Elder Machine
  5. The Dragons of Geda
  6. The Monster’s Daughter

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Now that Professor Odd #6: The Monster’s Daughter is finally out I can share the interior illustrations I did for the special two-part finale! They are both graphite pencil on bristol board, and while the versions in the book were digitally adjusted/cleaned up, I’m also posting the original scan, since I think the texture of the graphite pencil looks cool. I was greatly inspired by the work of John Picacio, and I think it helped me in this case—since these illustrations are something of a departure from my natural style. As always, click the image to embiggen!

The Detective Raw

Detective Final

Subject 0D Raw

Subject 0D Final

Prints are available here (The Detective) and here (Subject 0-D). Maybe also check out the book?

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"Woman of Thunder" • Graphite pencil on 12"x9" bristol board • click through for full view!

“Woman of Thunder” • Graphite pencil on 12″x9″ bristol board • click through for full view!

© Goldeen Ogawa 2015. WIP shots on Tumblrprint available here!

Raise your sword up, woman of thunder
’cause they’ll try to take you down tonight
Get your arms up, girl of wonder
you gotta chase ’em down before they fly

A personal piece I’ve been working on, on and off (but mostly off) since September of last year. This one features Clara, one of the three main protagonists from my Driving Arcana series (Rotation One available here!) with her trademark sword and custom Yamaha VMAX, Unicorn. Now I’m thinking I ought to do matching portraits for Selene and Jill, the other two leads, but considering how long this one took me, I don’t know when that will be. XD

Lyrics are from her signature song, “Miracles and Unicorns.”

 

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Gildenvern Personal Work, 2015 • Print available!

This piece began as a test for me to practice gold leafing techniques with Sophie Klesen (AKA SoMK) at World Con last year, in London. I had a great time and learned a lot, but never got around to finishing it… until one afternoon, partially driven by not having created any new art in a while, I sat down with my watercolors and my new paint brushes with the goal of knocking it out in one sitting. This is the result.

(Had I given myself more time, I probably could have managed more details here and there, but it is what it is and what it is is finished so I’m not going to stress the small things overmuch. Besides, I think it looks cool, even if the gold leaf got eaten by the scanner. As usual. You can get a better idea of what the leaf looks like over here.)

Progress pics:

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Gold leaf, watercolor and white ink on 9”x12” bristol board. Original is for sale; drop me a line if interested!

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Goldeen Ogawa is a writer, illustrator and cartoonist. To keep tabs on what she is doing you can follow her on twitter @GrimbyTweets, and on Tumblr. You can also contact her directly.

 

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