Saturday, October 17, 2020

Steve & Laurel (Don't Actually) Draw Like Paula Rego

   💖 Watch— because our commentary won't help! 💖 

 STEVE: Hi everyone. Laurel and I are going to talk our way through this video produced by the Tate Modern, a gallery in England. It’s kind of like an art tour! While we’re all stuck in quarantine, I hope we can do more of these museum visits together.


I love this idea, thank you for inviting me along. 

Currently, I am watching How to Draw Like Paula Rego, which I don’t think is a tour, but I thought I’d start with a How-To video because I feel inadequate    about    art! 

 STEVE: I think inadequate    about    art! would make an excellent T-shirt. I’m excited cuz Paula Rego sounds like a delicious pasta dish! Or maybe just the sauce

LAUREL: Oh my god. This reminds me of the time I told my gymnastics coach my mom was teaching me how to cook. She was like “what are y’all making?” When I told her it was spaghetti, Coach scoffed and said “that’s not cooking! Unless you’re making the sauce…” 

And I was like, “no it’s Prego.” I was really proud of the Prego part because my mom liked it so much and I thought it must mean we had Fine Taste, but instead, Coach declared that was Not Cooking.

Ok I just started using Grammarly and sometimes it tells me things like “your tone is forceful.” For this one, I think Grammarly would say “your tone is sorta sad, dude.”

STEVE: Pfft! What a jerk. Coach probably went home and stared at a sadness dinner of like peanut butter on rice. Just salty she didn’t get invited to Prego night.

Hi my name is Katy and I’m an artist based in London. Today, we’re going to explore how to draw like Paula Rego. 

LAUREL:  I love how this video is led by a Brit with a bob. Katy Papineau pronounces her name like the letters (hi, my name is Kay-Tee). 

STEVE: I’m stealing this for a story: “Brit with a bob.”

Paula Rego is a Portugeuse-born artist who is known for her paintings and drawings based on folk tales. Her work often reshapes traditional stories to reflect personal experiences. And focuses on female roles within the family. 

In 1994, she began to experiment with pastels... She describes working in pastels like working with your fingers.

STEVE: I love how she pronounces pastels like PAStels. As if they rhymed with castles. 

LAUREL: Rego describes painting with pastels as like painting with your fingers. Which is funny because my idea of finger-painting is not that at all. 

STEVE: My first finger-painting in preschool involved pressing cookie cutters onto potato slices to make shamrocks? And then using these potato shamrocks to stamp green clovers onto our paper? I don’t remember what we ‘painted’ but I’m sure it is vaguely racist.

LAUREL: Whoa. The shamrock stamps were potatoes? That is doubling down on the offensive stereotyping.

Rego started drawing when she was 4 years old, inspired by Walt Disney, and the stories her father read to her. The scenes in her pictures almost always take place in domestic settings and are filled with mysteries.

For this, I’m going to take inspiration from Rego’s pastel work, “Bride.” It’s part of a series of drawings called Dog Women.

STEVE: O wow we’re invited to participate … by following along! Doing her techniques?  

LAUREL: I feel disappointed that we aren’t shown more of the Dog Women series. How can she just drop that in there and not give us more info? 

STEVE: It’s a pretty awesome name.

Rego always works from life, and never works from photographs. 

“So with this drawing I’m just trying to understand the pose. Getting a sense of how the pose relates to the story”

STEVE: I read something interesting about how interpretive dance can create narrative. Maybe not in the typical sense of linear plot and causality, but in the sense that individual poses and movements are narratives in themselves? Am I saying this smartly? Like, narrative is not a dotted line graph composed of movements, but each chronotope of pose/movement is a narrative in itself...maybe this is more about dance than painting. 

LAUREL: Huh, I think I get what you mean. Feels like most people think of dance as basically athletic wordless theater? But each individual movement as a narrative—that sounds rad.

I think these ideas are transferable across the arts! They might not be directly applicable to everything when you translate across artistic mediums, but I think they are possible.

“For your next sketch, do a study that establishes the composition. This helps map out exactly what you want to include in the final image. I find it helpful to draw with my eyes unfocused. It helps me to see large areas of light and dark.”

STEVE: The idea of “unfocused” is so useful. For writing too? Omg she’s so loose when she draws. Pecking at the paper. She applies a layer of fixative after each layer of color. Yea, Laurel is right. This is not what finger-painting looks like to me. 

LAUREL: That’s what I was wondering! To figure out how “unfocused” vision would apply to writing, you need to find out what the writings’ equivalent to areas of light and dark is.  

STEVE: Maybe zooming out to think in terms of “patches” of feelings? When I get too fixated and futzy about individual lines, I always get stuck and burn out.

“Rather than mixing the pastels, Rego applies a layer of fixative between each stage of her drawing. This technique enables her to build up layers of color.”

STEVE: I wonder how good English kids are at spelling.

Drawer = Drorer

Lawyer = Lorer? 

LAUREL: It’s kind of like how linguists study how the English language has changed by looking at how Shakespear rhymed “prove” with “love.”

Rego uses pastels instead of paint because “pastels allow you to draw around and within the figure, whereas painting is just ‘filling in.’” 

STEVE: Yes! I had to pause here. What does this imply? That pastel artists “find” the lines as they scribble… and that painters have blank contoured chunks mentally mapped onto the canvas? And then fill them in like coloring books? OK. I’m remembering the “paint bucket” function on MS paint.

It’s hard to understand. I feel like writing aphorisms are easier for people to get. “Fiction is like Legos. Nonfiction is like Jenga.” Everybody gets that, right?

LAUREL: One time I got a free haircut from a fancy West Village salon as part of a hair modeling thing. The stylist was like “some say cutting hair is like architecture. For me, it is sculpture, because I work with negative space.” I was 18 and thought everything sounded like bullshit. Then he proceeded to shave half my head without my permission. 

What I’m trying to say, I think, is that these proclamations about art are sometimes interesting to think about, but other times they are a bullshit excuse to make shaving someone’s head without consent sound conceptual. 

THE MS PAINT BUCKET. I do think that informs how I think of paint. I think of it as a complete covering. 

STEVE: O wow how’d the cut turn out? If that happened to me, I’d be tossing my half-bald head constantly. In my haughtiest voice: “My stylist works with...negative space.”

LAUREL: The pictures live on Cristiano Cora’s FB and I wore hooded scarves for a year 

“Rego has spoken about expressing her fears and fantasies within her artwork, saying ‘The picture allows you to feel all sorts of forbidden things.’

STEVE: ...forbidden things like bone-deep anger at Cristiano Cora... I think the cut looks cool! And with hooded scarves? So futuristic!

“Why not try letting your imagination take over whilst you’re droring?”

LAUREL: Hahahaha droring. When I worked at a bakery and it came time to count the drawer, I had a coworker who always laughed at how I said “drawer.” To this day I’m still not sure how I was saying “drawer” or why the way I said “drawer” wasn’t right. Although the reason is def not bc I have a charming British accent.

STEVE: I think I say it with a single syllable? Some words just don’t work for some people. My brother’s girlfriend can’t say Colorado. She says it like Carrado and blames her braces but she hasn’t had braces for about 20 years. It’s the most endearing thing ever.

She starts off using harder pastels and then works over the top of them with softer ones. Rego says she prefers hard pastels because they give you a resistance and you can push and scratch into the surface with them.

When you finish your drawing, step back and see if any areas need more work

STEVE: Everything she says about visual art, I’m going back and translating to writing. To evaluate whether or not that’s good advice. Would that be useful? Fun?

LAUREL: I especially like the idea of unleashing fears and fantasies. I know that is pretty mundane, but I don’t do it in my writing and would like to. But also my imagination needs a workout. It’s flabby.

STEVE: I’d like to be better at this too. Before I quit fiction (and came back to it), I wrote a bunch of stories in which the main character was pretty much me...but way cooler. I guess they call this a “Gary Stu?” My ego wouldn’t allow “him” to be pitiful, scummy, or scared, etc. Really ridiculous. I wish somebody would’ve taught me how to get past that.

It’s important to look at the image as a whole. Think about the boundaries of your drawing and work right up to the edges of the page.

STEVE: “Work right up to the edges.” What would that mean for writing? Laurel, any idea?

LAUREL: I mean, my immediate thought is: NO MARGINS. I’ve been thinking about white space and layout of text, like, writing for the eye. I’ve been wanting to write in columns, like a newspaper, to encourage a faster reading pace. 

What do you think?

STEVE: The idea of regulating the reader’s pace is so interesting to me. I often think about eye-speed vs. voice-speed and how to write lines that would “sound” or register the same at both, that would keep the integrity of their rhythms regardless. I think you’re onto something!

There you go. That was how to draw like Paula Rego.

STEVE: And...that’s it! Thank you Laurel for hanging out with me, virtually. And thanks, whoever you are, for reading along! Maybe we can make some Paula Regos together. 

LAUREL: I need pastels, dammit. I did just get a pack of metallic Gelly Roll pens tho

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Poison Required


Out of curiosity*, I went to sign up for alumni career services where poison was required.



Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Who Lives in Blanding, Utah?

It's been so long since I've been on this side of a blog. It's like putting on old clothes, or reading old letters, like thinking I'm back upon opening the door of a houseabandoned and not yours.

In fact, while trying to update my profile info, the Autofill answers kept insisting that I was a stranger: my email address was that of a Maria E., and I lived in Blanding, Utah (?). Already, I am somebody else.

...or maybe this computer is haunted.

If it is, you must be the most boring ghost ever. Yes, ghost, I am talking to you.

Monday, August 3, 2020


By Andrew Tran     

As the flames danced in the fireplace, Hanson groaned as he touched the steel clasp that was constricted around his ankle. A bruise jutted out over the steel. Blisters and scrapes peppered his skin. His ankle was killing him. He peered down at the bruise and sighed; it was scorching in the kitchen. And a silence permeated inside. Hanson rose from the floor and leaned closer to the flames and turned a single coal over the bed of coals in the massive brick fireplace. He sighed, his hand shaking and burning from holding the hot iron. It was a small weight in his hand. When he touched his belly button, his stomach knotted. He hadn’t eaten a proper meal in three days. He looked over to the left of the fireplace and stared at the door of the inventory: biscuits, carrots, onions, eggs, dried orange peels, honey; etc. The door was locked. And he never tasted the food. It was 2029 and every day seemed to drag on. He was 25 years old and a prisoner. Hanson backed away from the rising fire, as it thickened with warmth. He smiled, wryly. He was used to the raging heat, and though at times he despised its warmth, it was still warmth. On lonely nights, such as this one, he craved the fire. A faint light bounced off his face. Hanson turned around. Moonlight was streaming through the window. He uncrossed his legs, stood up, and walked over to the window. His hard face softened. 

Outside, in the wilderness, there was freedom. The window provided him with access to that free life, one that he knew he would never touch. He stepped forward. The clasp had a long and winding chain and that chain linked around his ankle—bolted to the brick wall of the fireplace. The chain snaked across the floor, like a serpent twisting and turning left and right. As he crept with each footstep, the clasp chafed against his skin. Red blisters and sores popped out beneath the metal. He moaned. When he reached the pane, Hanson inhaled, then held in his breath. He listened. The dogs were yelping. The horses were snoring. The crickets were crooning. Hanson turned back to the window. The rolling hills of the Estate were spread out wide and far, leading to a looming forest. The trees towered over the property like columns except these trees leaned to the left, and had nooks and crannies within them. Crushed leaves were spread across the ground like the remains of his ancestors. 

Hanson watched a deer grate its antlers against a cypress. Two foxes were circling each other, in preparation for mating. And three cats were lapping milk from a tin can out by the stone partition. Hanson cupped his face with his hands, feeling the dirt and filth on his cheeks. He listened. A meandering stream was coursing through the meadow behind the hills. Water hit the jagged rocks and the stones sitting in the stream. 

In his mind, he tasted the water.

The fire was still burning in the fireplace. Hanson walked on his hands and knees. When he reached the fire, the flames rose higher. He leaned to the right and picked up a long, stubby branch. The bark felt coarse in his hand. A sweltering heat grew within the kitchen while Hanson reached forward and poked a coal with the branch. A few sparks caught onto the rough wooden tip. He watched the sparks turn into flames. And then, he stared as the flames burned the wood. Hanson stood up and raised the burning branch. A plume of smoke bloomed from the top of the branch. Behind him, the fire burned. Hanson lowered the branch to chest level and took a step towards the window. In the glass, his reflection gazed back at him. And then, the fire burned stronger and brighter. Once again, he lifted the flaming branch in the air. He torched the window frame with the branch and watched as the flames ate away the wood. 

Hanson smiled and watched the fire burn down everything. 


Saturday, August 1, 2020

Mini Moos

The cows were the size of gerbils. They ran on wheels in their cages. They retreated inside plastic igloos. Everything about them was exactly like a normal cow, but they could fit in the palm of your hand.

Those cows were from a dream I'd forgotten about until C sent me a picture of a cow the size of stafford terrior. He was showing me a picture of the parents of his future doghter. Behind the dog dad was this small cow. I got obsessed. I'd post a picture but it's on my phone and also I'd have to ask C. I'd have to say I want to put the picture on my blog project, which, no can do.

Apparently there are 26 breeds of mini cattle. The specific one I saw is a Kentshire cow. Minicattle dot com describes the Kentshire cow as "a short beefy animal." That word choice feels, uh, insensitive.

Minicattle dot com itself looks like it's from the early internet. I like that about it.


Calendar: A Novel

December 5th, 2019 


During the late morning, I received a text from Tess saying that she had a box full of my stuff. I asked her what was inside and she didn’t respond. I thought about double-texting, but instead I went for a run down the block. I sprinted around for a couple of winding laps around an empty red track that looped along one of high schools located in Brownsville. 

I breathed in the December wind and paced myself. I was pumping my arms up and down, kicking my feet up, and doing my best to create a long and straight stride. 

I listened to some music: Deep House to Beach House, to Kanye West, to A Tribe Called Quest. When I reached the end of the track, I stopped running and hunched over my knees and caught my breath. Before I sat on the ground, I was feeling the wind knocked out of me. I checked my phone. 

Tess had sent me a second text and told me: Drew I don’t know. Just your personal belongings. A Daft Punk vinyl. Your moleskin. A worn copy of Tender Is the Night. A toothbrush with missing bristles. A photograph of us at Coney Island, and a photograph of us at the World Trade Center. A photograph of me.

At least that’s what I thought she texted me. 

I felt like I was falling deeper into a depression. But this time I caught myself. And I lifted myself out of the hole before it could consume me. I left the track, sweaty and red-faced, and jogged back to my apartment. I washed my body off with a steaming hot shower, and then I took a piss. I stared at the bathroom mirror, placing my hand on the glass to wipe away the condensation. And then I heard someone screaming in the alleyway. 

I went to my bedroom, opened the window, and looked down. There was no one in the alleyway. I went back to the bathroom, stared at the mirror. I muffled my mouth with a bath towel and pounded the sink vanity. And then I screamed, I screamed, and I screamed, and then I screamed some more. 

When I stopped screaming, my voice was hoarse and dry. I drank some water. It was cold and full of ice, and I almost choked on an ice cube. I spat it out. I wiped my mouth with a rag. And then I put on some clothes: a white tee, a flannel vest, washed out jeans, and some boots. 

I left my apartment and went to meet Tess in Bushwick.

She lived in a tall green brick townhouse on Knickerbocker Avenue, across from Irving Square Park. Black trash bags were lining up the sidewalks. And halal food trucks waited for customers to buy their gyros and falafel. Her townhouse had a stone path leading up to a small wooden porch, and stained glass windows made out of red and purple panels. The rooftop was crumbling and some shingles jutted out, hanging over the door that had dents and bumps in the hard oak. I walked up to the townhouse and texted Tess that I was outside. Two minutes passed. Then three minutes. 

After eight minutes, I was turning around and about to leave when the front door opened. Tess stuck her head out. “You’re early,” she said, with a grumble. 

“No, you’re late,” I said. I just wanted to get my stuff and leave. But seeing her again made me melt. I was standing still, but inside I was shuddering. 

“Want some coffee?” Tess asked, opening the door. 

“Sure,” I said, as I went inside of the townhouse. 

The main common area was small and attractive. It had a small wooden table, three folding chairs, a flat-screen TV, and exposed brick for the walls. A blue L-shaped sofa, an expensive-looking turntable with a stack of vinyl records sitting next to it. And posters hung from the ceiling of musicians: Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix. 

As Tess brewed coffee in a black percolator, she grabbed two ceramic mugs from her kitchen cabinet and placed them on the wooden table. I sat in a chair and took out my e-cig, smoking it. 

“Thanks,” I said, as Tess handed me a cup of black coffee. I took a sip of it and burned my tongue. I bit my lower lip and said nothing. I smiled to show I was composed and assured. Maybe this was going to be a bad idea. But I couldn’t leave, not yet. 

Tess poured half and half and two sugars into her cup of coffee, then stirred it. She said, “How’s the coffee? I got it from the Farmer’s Market on Broadway.”

“It’s tasty. Thanks.”

“How’ve you been? It’s been a while.”

“I’ve been well. Thanks.”

Tess chuckled. “You just going to say ‘thanks’ all day? At least you’re still polite.”

“I didn’t come here to fight, Tess. I came here for my things. Can I get them, now?”

“Someone’s irritated.” Tess nodded and set down her cup of coffee on the kitchen countertop. She walked over to her TV and reached behind it. She lifted up a large cardboard box taped up from top to bottom. She was holding it against her chest and in her arms, as she shuffled over to me. She placed it on top of the table, but the box slid off and dropped on my foot. 

I winced in pain and jumped up, startled. “Fuck me,” I said. “Fucking shit.”

“Oh, my god, I’m so sorry Drew,” Tess said, holding her hand up to her face. She was laughing for a bit, which made me pissed off. But I tried to smile even though my foot was hurting. 

I picked up the box and set it back on the table. “Let’s see what we got,” I opened up the flaps of the box, and reached inside. I fished out a few cassettes from obscure indie artists, a sketchbook filled with rough drawings of ducks and hunters, a book on poetic sequences, a graphic novel, and a rotten green apple. 

There were more things inside, but they were wrapped in small plastic wrappings or paper packages. I knew I should just wait until later to open up everything. I noticed there were teeth markings in the rotten apple. 

I showed it to Tess and she made a face. Then I saw something moving in the box. I turned on the flashlight on my phone. I shined the light into the box. There was a small grey mouse curled up in the right upper hand corner of the box. 

“Oh shit. A mouse,” I said, grabbing a rag that hung from the sink faucet. 

“A what?” Tess asked.

Using the rag, I grabbed a hold on the mouse. I lifted it out of the box. “A mouse,” I said, holding it up to Tess. “Should we name it?” 

Tess cringed and took a step back. There was a look of horror on her face. “Get that thing away from me. Drew. Stop. That’s not funny.”

I made a throwing motion towards Tess. She screamed. “It’s just sleeping. It’s not going to hurt you,” I said laughing out loud. I came closer to Tess, swinging the mouse by its tail, “Or at least I think it’s sleeping.” 

“That’s not a mouse! That’s a rat. That’s a fucking New York city rat,” Tess said, pushing me in the chest. She ran away from me. 

I staggered back and kept on laughing. I tossed the mouse out the door and into the street. The mouse woke up and scampered across the pavement, and scuttled into a rain gutter. 

I went to the sink, washing my hands under a spray of cold water. As I dried my hands off with a paper towel, I turned around and ducked. Tess was hitting me over the head with a rolled-up newspaper. 

I yelled. I touched the bruise blooming on my head. “Fuck you doing?” I said, as Tess continued to smack me in the face and chest with the newspaper. She hit me in the arms, then my knees, and went for my crotch. But she missed, as I dodged her beating. “Okay, truce, truce!” I said, smiling. 

“Payback’s not so funny, is it?” Tess said.

I shrugged. “I guess not.”

Tess rolled her eyes and pointed to the cardboard box of my things. “You should get your things. I have a doctor’s appointment soon,” she said. 

“Everything okay? You’re not sick, are you?”

“Yeah I’m fine. I’ve just been throwing up. For like the past few mornings. It’s probably nothing, but you can never be too sure,” Tess said, putting on her black pea coat, and slipping into her brown leather boots. She walked over to me and gave me a hug. Then she gave a peck on the cheek. I felt warm and great. I had missed her. “Take care of yourself, Drew. I mean it.” 

“You sure it’s nothing?”

“Yeah, I’m positive.”

“Okay, well thanks Tess,” I said, picking up the cardboard box of my things. I walked out of the common area and left the townhouse, the door shutting behind me. I turned around and saw Tess looking out the window, peeking through the curtains. She waved and smiled. And I did the same, as I walked away carrying the box of my things.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

I'm starting a blog because.

Welcome to the blog. Welcome to the blog. Welcome to the blog. Welcome to the blog.

I like how you can change a blog layout at whim. Blogs are unserious and tacky.

I think it would be cool to do a blog project with other people. A blog salon. That seems hard to impossible, but I'm putting it out there anyway. Can it be done? I never believed the internet would be cyber-utopia, still, the internet seemed cooler before. I was in fifth grade. It was 2003ish. My best friend photoshopped boobs onto her red sweater and anything felt possible.

I used to think the internet would be a good place to meet other maladjusted people. Why would you turn to the internet if your real life was so great? That’s funny to think about now. Nobody’s life is great so now we all live in a world of influencer influenza. I guess incels found each other on the internet but I don't really want to talk about that, there are other people talking about it better. 

I think a lot of people feel like the internet used to be better. A blog seems like a good format, fitting for the internet of yore, because a blog is outdated and cheesy.

I’m not sure what I want this blog to be, except an exploration of the old internet feeling. It’s 4 months into quarantine and I’m depressed. No doubt I'd be depressed even if it weren't quarantine, but quarantine is important because I have more time. When I’m depressed the point of life is just to fill up time. A blog is one way to fill up time at a time when it has been impossible for me to write fiction. I can't even read it. Instead I've been doing stand-up, which would be depressing if it weren't a fucking joke. It's been good to play with a new form. So why not a blog? I want this blog to feel like possibility, like photoshopped boobs, before we realized we were 11 and that was fucked up.


Steve & Laurel (Don't Actually) Draw Like Paula Rego

   💖 Watch — because our commentary won't help! 💖     STEVE: Hi everyone. Laurel and I are going to talk our way through this video pr...