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A Sphinx's Sketchbook: 1

Dreamed 1994/7/2 and 7/19 by Chris Wayan; drawn 1994-95.

INTRODUCTION

In July 1994, I dreamed of a magical picturebook in the library, called "A Sphinx's Sketchbook." But I felt ashamed to be seen with it; people passing eyed me strangely. So I slipped it back on the shelf to check out "later," and walked away. But suddenly, on impulse, I went back and opened it, despite my blushing, and, standing in the stacks, I read the whole book. It claimed to be a translation of a journal by a sphinx called Tehura who visits humanity from her Pacific island, and publishes a sketchbook of her trip, full of anthropological notes on us, some insightful, some wildly wrong.

If I hadn't overcome my shame and gone back, when I woke I'd have lost my chance to read her story.

The dream-book echoed Noa Noa, Gauguin's sketch-journal of Tahiti, which I'd just read. His stories are eerie, from a culture in shock. Elusive. His view of Tehura, Gauguin's lover and model, seemed one-sided; I wanted her view of their relationship. And he hid some powerful, personal events. When news came from France that his beloved daughter Aline had died, Gauguin tried suicide. Photos of the two girls, Tehura and Aline, have the same wary expression. I wish they could have met. I felt haunted by them all. A lost world.

So the sex and humor and surreality of A Sphinx's Sketchbook hid deeper things. A mystical islander visits our world? It's Noa Noa reversed. The finished comic weaves between my dream of finding the Tehura the Sphinx's journal, pages from that journal, interludes from Noa Noa, and near the end, two-page spreads telling a follow-up dream: I was a batwinged peacemaker between warring sphinxes and angels. A complex weave, I know. I spent a year on it.

For 20 years I couldn't put A Sphinx's Sketchbook online; it was too intricate to be readable in low resolution--and too layered a tale to be easily explainable. For years I struggled with filesizes, resolution, ways to break up the pages, orientation, intros, maps, reader's guides... and failed. But now bandwidths are fast enough to display big files--so I'm just uploading every page whole, in fairly high-res. Sorry, you'll need a big window to see the pages right, as wholes. Here goes...

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A Sphinx's Sketchbook, a dream comic; page 1. Click to enlarge.

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PAGE NOTES

"Dreamtales: Issue 10": Dreamtales are a set of dream-based comics, published 1990-94 as zines. Issues 1-9 were pure digital, drawn with a mouse or pen and tablet, not scanned art: some of the earliest pure digital art. Intense stories, but crude graphics--low resolution, few colors, GIF format. #10 was different--drawn in pencil, then deepened and tinted digitally. I loved this technique--no inking, rich textures!--and used it in all the later Dreamtales.

The glyphs at top & bottom: Tehura's journal was full of concise notes in Sphinx, a language using syllabic glyphs. I forgot to translate her title on the cover drawing--"Golden Gate Park's Strawberry Hill, in Biped City" as she called San Francisco, where she visited, and where I live. This syllabic script appears in many of my dreams, not just this one. I invented it for dreams, but not in them. Years ago I had a girlfriend who'd snoop through my dream-journal and get mad at me for dreaming wrong! A dream image she disapproved of, or anything she interpreted as a slight to her, and she'd scream at me. So I invented this script for privacy. She never did crack it! I left her (and her temper) but kept the shorthand. Still use it when space is tight or privacy's needed.

The scene above is real; but if you climb to the top of the waterfall today, you'll find it changed--overgrown now, and the waterfall has algae problems, and the bridge is rotting, and the old museum's gone, replaced with a lopsided postmodern tower. Stow Lake is still there...

...but Tehura isn't. I avoid the spot now, for I feel so sad when I go there and don't find her.



LISTS AND LINKS:
Noa Noa: artists and the arts - Gauguin - creative process - islands - love
Tehura's Tale: dream beings, animal people, sphinxes - babes, hunks & sexy creatures - flying - scenery - cities - Only in San Francisco - love - lesbian sex & sex dreams in general
Library Dream: books & libraries - shyness & embarrassment - urge & impulse - memory & dream recall - dreamwork in general
Reflections in the Pool: swimming - mermaids - cats & sphinxes - orgies and group sex - nocturnes -
Peacemaking Devil: flying - angels - I'm Just Not Myself Today! - species-bent dreams - devils - war & peace - assertion - dream jobs - joy
General: epic dreams - pencil dream art - round dream art - comics & sequential dream art

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