The Birth of Venus (Pip Starr Version)

There are a number of themes that many classical painters tackled such that they nearly became traditional in art, and they largely fell into two central categories: religious themes such as the Virgin and Child, the Annunciation, the Crucifixion and the Temptation of St. Anthony, and mythological themes such as the Judgment of Paris, the Rape of Europa and of course, the Birth of Venus. I have decided to do my own take on several of these traditional  themes, starting with this one. Naturally, my pieces will be rather loose interpretations and will include primarily children in the roles of classical or biblical figures à la the film Angyali üdvözlet

In my somewhat surrealistic version of The Birth of Venus, our goddess is about ten or eleven years old, and she emerges not from the sea but from a bathtub full of wine which she herself is pouring. The idea here is that Venus is not literally being born, but rather this girl is becoming Venus by vinous baptism (get it?)  In fact, Venus was initially a goddess of fertility and was associated with vineyards, so the wine is appropriate here, though in our modern Western society children cannot legally drink it. Thus, there is a hint of illicitness here. Shells are also a common symbol of Venus, and our young goddess wears one around her neck, as well as there being a large one on the side of the bathtub. Venus is also surrounded by putti, as is often the case in paintings of her.

This entire scene takes place amidst ancient ruins, telling us that Venus is one of the old gods, though this is contradicted by the girl’s youth. Venus shall remain eternally young, and to my way of thinking, she should not be embodied by a single figure but rather is reborn whenever a young girl develops her first hints of womanhood. To be sure, I blatantly stole this idea from Moebius. This image differs slightly from my usual pen & ink pieces in that I deliberately gave it a foreground, middle ground and background whereas usually I’m quite content with just foreground and middle ground or foreground and background. This gives the composition more depth and richness, I think, and as a result this is one of the more successful drawings I’ve ever completed.

As is usually the case, this piece, which is 11″x14″, is for sale. If you’re interested, contact me at pipstarr72@yahoo.com

Edit: Sold! Thank you very much.

Pip Starr – The Birth of Venus (2017)

Fudge Factors

Today is Pigtails in Paint’s 6th anniversary.  Not an auspicious one to be sure and I admit to some reservations.  For one thing, even though this site was founded by Pip 6 years ago today, it cannot be said that we have been in continuous operation that long due to technical issues and outright censorship.  Recently, Pip designed a little banner to celebrate our 1000th post, but again I have reservations.  As the site evolved, it made sense to consolidate a number of shorter posts and, on occasion, posts were deleted out of necessity.  And then there is the issue of monthly updates: do they count as posts or only those that contain images?  Some posts are long and some very short.  So I decided that, so that Pip’s efforts would not go to waste, I would post his celebratory banner on this anniversary date.  Thanks go to all our readers for their support particularly during these trying times.  -Ron

Maiden Voyages: May 2015

This post was originally published on April 19th because Pip and I felt that the Sally Mann news was timely and should be announced right away.  I have added a couple more items and so this now constitutes our official May Maiden Voyages post.

Sally Mann Speaks: I am planning a substantial post on Sally Mann this summer. Many readers have seen a number of her images involving her three children. However, few people truly appreciate the depth of this artist. When I first saw the documentary What Remains, that is when I officially fell in love with this generous, thoughtful and sophisticated soul. Most people are also familiar with the small-minded commentary she has received for exposing her children in this way or the superficial and low-minded comments about the children’s physical attributes. A new development—to the general public, anyway—is that at least one disturbing “fan” has been obsessed with the family and pestered friends and neighbors for small personal details about the children’s lives. The frustrating thing about law enforcement is that in this kind of domestic terrorism, its hands are tied while the federal government can throw caution to the wind when pursuing its enemies in the name of national defense. Mann was fortunate to find one compassionate agent in the FBI who tried to advise her on how to handle this interloper, who never went so far as to actually step onto the property. This latest revelation comes from The New York Times Magazine article based on excerpts from a book, Hold Still: A Memoir With Photographs, being released in the coming month. Anyone interested in Mann’s story or in the complexities of children exposed to public scrutiny are encouraged to read it. Once I have assimilated this new information, Pigtails will be featuring this artist in a more thorough post. So many of Sally Mann’s decisions and experiences are relevant to the issues that Pigtails in Paint tries to address. For starters, Pip and I wanted to emphasize that obsessive and aggressive behavior of this kind is never acceptable, even when there was no malevolent intent. Mann has been very generous in sharing these intimate family moments and she, her husband and children deserved a safe place to develop and express their own humanity.

The Secret Lives of Girls: Pip—in comments and personal correspondence—has mentioned an excellent book that I have finally gotten around to. I dare say it should be required reading for any girl, woman or man who truly respects girls and women. It is called The Secret Lives of Girls by Sharon Lamb. Many authors have tried to deal with the subject of aggression and sexuality before, but Lamb so skillfully brings out the intricacies of the interaction of these two qualities and dispels myths about what is “normal”. I was able to find it in my local library, so it should be readily available to most of our readers who live in English-speaking countries. I have maintained for a long time that although children are sexual creatures, it is not of the same order as adult sexuality and any arguments promoting sexual interaction with adults are tenuous at best. Sexuality is a sensitive subject and every society has rules of proper conduct. What I found illuminating is that girls take the initiative to find ways of educating themselves so long as they do not find themselves in families or societies that are too oppressive. This plays right into gender standards—both male and female—that is causing so much of the psychic distress right now.

Pip’s Gallery: I suggested to Pip that since some of his art will be appearing on Pigtails from time to time, he should establish a gallery page so readers can examine the range of his art.  I have a few of his pieces, so in due course, I will add them.  This is the least we can do in gratitude for him given that he created this popular and flourishing site.

New Young Girl Blog: One of our readers has started his own blog that focuses on the inspirational aspects of the younger girl.  It has a literary/historical bent and broaches deep humanistic issues.  It is called Agapeta: When younger girls awaken hearts and illuminate lives; lovely title, isn’t it?

Facebook Rules: This is a short item and a reality check for internet sites and services that profess to uphold society’s standards while trying to offer maximum personal freedom. The web is supposed to optimize these possibilities and Facebook management is realizing that it is not a simple matter of having a blanket policy about content. You can read more about it here.

A Young Moon Goddess and Her Acolytes

Well, I’m finally able to present my second piece here.  I’ve been working on it all month and at last it’s finished!  It’s a fantasy piece, in keeping with my interests: two young warriors have been placed to guard a portal made up of two trees twisted together, when suddenly the portal opens and there floats a youthful goddess of the moon, her hair and clothing billowing in the breeze.

Bear in mind that this is a bad scan done with one of those handheld scanners and I went through hell trying to get the pieces lined up in Photoshop, but this is a reasonable facsimile of the original image.  I will see about getting a better scan early this week, because this scan–and all scans really–are unable to do the b&w art justice.  First, there is distortion of the image here and there, especially the bottom right-hand corner and the full moon.  Further, in order to get a consistent image which would be suitable for printing, I have to push the contrast up, which has a flattening effect.  Thus, you miss out on all the sensuous textures of the original.  The style of this piece is fairly realistic, though with some Art Nouveau touches in the trees and the goddess’s hair and cape.

Anyway, here is “Moon Goddess”–pen & ink on 11 x 14 Bristol board, and it is for sale.  If you’re interested, please contact me via email.

Edit: SOLD – Sorry, but this piece is no longer on the market.  Thank you for your interest!

Pip Starr - Moon Goddess (2015)

Pip Starr – Moon Goddess (2015)

Pip Starr - Moon Goddess (2015) (detail 1)

Pip Starr – Moon Goddess (2015) (detail 1)

Pip Starr - Moon Goddess (2015) (detail 2)

Pip Starr – Moon Goddess (2015) (detail 2)

The Third State of the Blog Address

As another year passes (Pigtails in Paint celebrated its 4th anniversary on February 15th), certain milestones come to mind:

Donations: We processed our first donation last month and I am so pleased to see that there are people who support us able to contribute in this way. Thankfully, for a few months at least, Pigtails’ expenses will not be coming out of my own pocket. As this site gains more academic recognition, people are beginning to notice that this is not a superficial enterprise, but an insightful hint into human nature and a hope for a compassionate world.

First Offer: Something I knew about Pip Starr that most people didn’t is that he is an artist in his own right. Over the years, he was inspired by various material and has produced compelling work from that inspiration. Although much of his work is derivative, he infuses a personal artistic passion to it, giving an added vitality. I kept prodding him about offering his work to the readers and he has finally and cautiously done so on his Winter Moran post. This piece is still on offer for anyone who would like to purchase it and I am available to help facilitate things if necessary. It is not my intent for Pigtails to serve as a sales site, but if any artist has something worthy to offer that would not be appropriate in another forum, I will consider such requests on a case by case basis.

Terahertz! Our internet host informed me last month that our bandwidth has exceeded the terahertz range. Now I have to admit that I do not completely understand what this means, but he assures me that Pigtails is experiencing a lot of volume and this is a testimony to what this site offers people. “Tera-” is a metric prefix denoting a trillion.

Readers and associates continue to send me little tidbits that are worth mentioning but do not warrant a dedicated post:

A Valentine: There is a small but touching item of a man who took his 6-year-old daughter out for dinner on Valentine’s Day and someone was so moved by the poignant scene that they left a nice note and paid their restaurant tab. You can check it out here.

A Facelift for Dolls: In the furor about corporate over-sexualization of young girls, there has been the predictable backlash from moral fundamentalists. But a more constructive form comes from a woman in Australia who takes thrown out dolls and gives them a new look. Of particular interest is that real little girls prefer these more realistic dolls to those oft-cited and slutty Bratz dolls. The creator calls them “Tree Change Dolls” and you can watch a short video about her story here.

Tate Reopens Access to Ovenden Landscapes: As I mentioned in the Graham Ovenden post, a cloud of suspicion has hung over this artist. In response, The Tate Modern has denied public access to his works kept in their collection—even for legitimate academic purposes. Last month, The Tate reopened access to Ovenden’s landscapes. You can see an article on this here. In the debate over censorship, there is always the implied assumption that reasonable people cannot judge for themselves. To commemorate this news, I have decided—when time allows—to post all the Ovenden images that once appeared on the Tate website. An associate, realizing how things can suddenly be censored, took the precaution of saving the images and then later shared them with me. I will be posting them on a page in the “Image Research Library” section of this site.  Even though the news reports that The Tate is only offering access to the landscapes, I have been informed that any of the Ovenden images can be viewed by appointment only.

Little Orphan Images: A “Wish List” has already been established to solicit help from readers when a little more information is needed to put together a post. I also feel a need to post images that I sense are important or part of something important. Because I received certain images out of context, I do not know the sources or intent. Therefore—again when time permits—I will be establishing a “Little Orphan Images” page to solicit help in identifying artists or films in which an image may have appeared.

Finally, I would like to thank our contributing writers who have broken new ground and helped keep things going while Pip and I pursue leads and develop posts. Best Wishes to all in the coming year, -Ron

Naked Power: Alan Moore and Winter Moran

Among aficionados of topnotch comics writing/storytelling there are few writers more famous (or more deserving of that fame) than Alan Moore.  Many of his greatest works (From Hell, A League of Extraordinary Gentleman, V for Vendetta and of course Watchmen) have been adapted to the big screen, some more successfully than others—Moore, true to character, has disavowed them all.  A quirky Brit known in the comics industry as much for his politics (and his hoariness) as for his writing, Moore is a dedicated anarchist and free speech advocate who hasn’t so much invited controversy as kidnapped it at gunpoint and forced it to deal with him.  He’s also clearly a genius.

One of Moore’s most controversial works was the erotic one-shot comic Lost Girls, co-authored and illustrated by his second wife, Melinda Gebbie.  The story took three young girls who were the protagonists of famous children’s fantasy books: Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, Alice from Alice in Wonderland, and Wendy from Peter Pan, and explored their erotic lives.  Although it deals primarily with these characters as adults, apparently (I confess I haven’t read it), there are scenes from their childhood as well.  The story flirts with dangerous ideas and subverts the notions of innocence that we often associate with these fairy tale characters and with children in general, and consequently some booksellers will not stock it in their store for fear of an obscenity charge, perhaps recalling the rash of police raids on comics shops and bookstores that took place back in the late eighties and early nineties.  It was because of cases like these that the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund formed in 1986, an organization strongly supported by Yours Truly.  (Note: The CBLDF always accepts donations, so if you feel like giving to a good cause that—like us—is on the front line in the war for freedom of speech, I recommend giving to the CBLDF!)

Less controversial (but no less provocative) was the Miracleman series, a new take on a much older character, Marvelman—indeed, in the earliest appearances of the revitalized character, he was still called Marvelman, but when the rights passed over to Eclipse Comics, the name was changed to Miracleman to avoid copyright conflicts, and many of the original issues were retrofitted with the new name and identity in republications.  Moore’s run on the series coincided with the longest and most successful era for the revamped superhero, and as you would expect from Moore, the story was much darker and more violent—way more violent—than the character’s ’50s and ’60s incarnation and deals with his origins and eventual rise to godlike power and status on Earth.  This run was eventually collected into four graphic novels, all of which I highly recommend if you can get your hands on them—unfortunately, original editions of the books are going for a pretty penny on Amazon these days.

But, I digress.  Not only was the writing on the series fascinating and challenging, the artwork in it was consistently gorgeous, done by the likes of Alan Davis, Rick Veitch, Gary Leach and my absolute favorite artist on the series, John Totleben, whose inking is superb on so many levels.  Good inking is really the key to creating good comics art; if the inking is poor, then even the best of colorists often can’t save it.  But fortunately, Totleben is one of the best, despite being partially blind.

The story of Miracleman as conceived by Moore is one that starts with a traditional origin story but then quickly flies off into the darker and more complex corners of superhero mythology.  Moore is a master at exploring the psychological motivations—good, bad and ugly—of people who routinely put on strange costumes and fight crime and/or who have superpowers.  Among superheroes, Marvelman/Miracleman is one of the most powerful, a British analogue to Captain Marvel, who was himself Marvel’s answer to Superman.  In Moore’s vision, this demigod, not content with simply catching criminals, decides to rearrange Earth to his own liking, often with spectacularly surreal results, and to set himself up as benevolent supreme ruler of the planet.  Initially this is received well by civilization because many of Earth’s biggest problems are solved by Miracleman and his equally superpowered wife, but soon the facade begins to crack.

The Golden Age era, covered by the fourth collection, was finished, but not by Moore.  His successor was perhaps the only person the equal of Moore’s particular brand of creativity and intellect, Neil Gaiman.  Grant Morrison also did some writing on the series, making it the only comics series I’m aware of that all three members of what I call the Holy Trinity of British Comics Writers—Moore, Gaiman and Morrison–worked on, though there are probably some comics fans out there who can prove me wrong.  At any rate, although never completed, Gaiman had promised to present his hero in three different eras.  With the Golden Age complete, the second era, the Silver Age, was begun by Gaiman but was never completed.  It begins to show the erosion of Miracleman’s created utopia, and also focuses more on the the characters at the peripheral and how they are impacted by their new reality.  The final arc, the Dark Age, would’ve seen the complete destruction of Miracleman’s paradise and perhaps the downfall of the character himself.  Alas, we will probably never know.

One of the more ingenious characters Moore devised for Miracleman was Winter Moran, the daughter of Michael Moran and Avril Lear, Miracleman and Miraclewoman respectively, and as soon as she’s born she proves to be not only a worthy successor but someone who might soon rival her father and mother.  Immediately upon being born she speaks perfect English and is able to fly.  Not long after that, she leaves Earth altogether for a few years.  When she returns she is four years old, still as naked as the day she was born but much, much wiser, having explored the galaxy and encountered many alien races, one of whom she married, as we will soon learn.  But that’s not the only shocking thing she did while away from Home System: she also has sex (albeit in an artificial body).  In a funny scene in Miracleman Book Three: Olympus, when Winter reveals she’s had sex, her father, who is perhaps the most powerful being on Earth at this point, reveals he is a typically worrisome parent, and for all his intelligence and prudence, he has no idea how to handle his super-precocious four-year-old daughter.

John Totleben - Miracleman - Book Three: Olympus (pg 116, pls 2-4)

John Totleben – Miracleman – Book Three: Olympus (pg 116, pls 2-4)

As the scene progresses, we see that Winter is dissatisfied with her father’s “redecorations” of Earth, and this is likely intended to foreshadow Winter’s eventual rise and challenge to her father’s supremacy.  Winter, it seems, is being set up as the eventual villain of the Dark Age.  But for now she is simply a super-powered, super-intelligent 4-year-old girl who, like Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen, has transcended the need for clothing.  We are aware that she has no particular attachment to human notions of modesty or conventional morality; it is perhaps a short leap from there to the understanding growing in Winter’s consciousness that humanity are as ants to her, or simply toys for her to play with as she pleases.  Or destroy.  Notice Totleben’s delicate Art Nouveau-infused work on Winter’s hair and the background designs here.

John Totleben - Miracleman - Book Three: Olympus (pg 116, pl 5)

John Totleben – Miracleman – Book Three: Olympus (pg 116, pl 5)

Soon Winter is an active participant in her new world.  But what does she do?  She makes it easier and more comfortable for women to give birth to a new strain of genetically modified super-babies like herself.  Hmm, why is Winter so interested in bringing more of such children into the world?  Is she perhaps creating her own army of super-children for an eventual takeover of Earth?  Notice Winter teaching the super-babies how to fly.

John Totleben - Miracleman - Book Three: Olympus (pg 117, pl 1)

John Totleben – Miracleman – Book Three: Olympus (pg 117, pl 1)

In Book Four: The Golden Age, after Neil Gaiman took over writing the series, Winter takes a backseat to another little blond super-baby, Mist, who, like Winter, tends to float around naked.  But Winter does make a prominent appearance in a peculiar way—she is the heroine of her own children’s book (which, incidentally, is being read to Mist and to her normal, non-superpowered half-brother by their mother).  The book is called Winter’s Tale and details what happened during those first few years when she traveled and explored the galaxy on her own.  The comic cleverly presents the pages of the book as part of the storyline, with occasional interjection panels where Mist, her brother and their mom discuss the book.  Here is the first page of Winter’s Tale:

Mark Buckingham; Sam Parsons - Miracleman - Book 4: The Golden Age (pg 94)

Mark Buckingham; Sam Parsons – Miracleman – Book 4: The Golden Age (pg 94)

Perhaps one of the more interesting parts of the story deals with Winter’s meeting with the Lantiman of Sauk, who immediately asks Winter to marry him, which she does.  The context is important here—let’s remember that this is being revealed through a children’s book that exists in Miracleman’s reality, and that it is being read to two children at the same time the reader is experiencing it, one a miracle baby herself, the other not.  The Lantiman reveals forthwith that Winter is simply the newest in his collection of child-brides, and the reader understands that we are now looking at an alien pedophile, and that he is presented positively in the fictional book.

Oddly enough, Winter and the Lantiman never have physical sex.  This fact is not presented in the story, but we know it’s true because the writer points out that Winter is looking for the Qys system–she has not yet met the Qys, the hyper-advanced species that introduced her to sex, at least by Winter’s account in Olympus.  It makes sense that the Lantiman’s relationship with his child-brides is not a sexual one in any conventional sense, given that it is not bound by species, and also owing to his gigantic size, which would make sex with Winter (and presumably most or all of his child-brides) nearly impossible anyway.

So, what is this love the Lantiman has for young girls of every species that compels him to marry them if it isn’t sexual?  I reckon it is something akin to the feelings many of Pigtails’ readers feel—it is not conventionally sexual in itself, but it recognizes the holistic beauty of children, which includes their sexuality.  It is the timeless fascination that little girls hold for some adult males like myself, the recognition that they are a kind of ideal human.  Not that I would ever want to marry a little girl, but for me this blog is analogous to the Lantiman of Sauk’s marriages; it is born out of something that transcends mere beauty or sexuality or any other such physically rooted concept.

And in that light, Winter, who is herself a transcendent version of the little girl—a little girl who is near to achieving her perfect potential—is a natural fit for the Lantiman.  Unlike child-brides in traditional cultures, the Lantiman does not seek to control Winter.  Indeed, he gives her an entire planet, a world for her to play with and control.  He is apparently not interested in her merely as a physical form (though the notion that he also finds little girls physically beautiful is not excluded here); he is interested in her as a little girl who is fully able to express her every desire because of her godlike abilities.  Hence, the Lantiman’s feeling that Winter was the best bride he ever had.  Notice that when Winter is ready to leave him, he does not stop her from going.  Granted, the account is being filtered through Neil Gaiman (as the proxy writer of the children’s book) for the children of the Miracleman universe, so we may not be getting an accurate account of what actually happened between Winter and the Lantiman.

Mark Buckingham; Sam Parsons - Miracleman - Book 4: The Golden Age (pg 100)

Mark Buckingham; Sam Parsons – Miracleman – Book 4: The Golden Age (pg 100)

And now, I have something really special for you.  This is the first actual illustration of mine I’ve featured on this site, and it is my interpretation of Winter Moran.  This piece is 11″ × 14″ pen & ink on Bristol board, done mostly in pointillism (I was going for Virgil Finlay-esque), frameable, signed by me on the front and back, and it is for sale.  If you’re interested, you can contact me off the board and we will arrange something.  Meantime, I hope you enjoy it!  This is the first of what will likely be a series of pieces I plan to post here with little girls as the common theme, most of which will be offered for sale.

Edit: SOLD – Sorry, but this piece is no longer on the market.  Thank you for your interest!

Pip Starr - Winter Moran (2015)

Pip Starr – Winter Moran (2015)