Daddy’s Girls and Beautiful Boys: Children’s Sexual Encounters in Graphic Media

WARNING: The following article contains images of child sexual abuse which may offend sensitive viewers. Not recommended for children under 18. 

You’ll have to excuse me, because this article will be long. But I think it’s warranted and long overdue.

I must confess, my recent discussions with a respondent to our blog who goes by the deceptively mundane, everyman moniker “a parent” has gotten under my skin in a big way. The underlying accusation, though not put into these words exactly, is that Pigtails in Paint is guilty of “sexualizing” children. This we do, according to “a parent”, by repeatedly claiming—whether doing this directly or indirectly he does not say—that children are worthy objects of the sexual attention of adults, or in terms of art, by attempting to “normalize” what some critics refer to as the “pedophilic gaze.”

Let me be absolutely clear here: I object nearly outright to the concept of the “sexualized” child, as well as to “normalization.” These words are loaded language, armchair psychobabble/political spin designed to instill by default the opposite notion that the “normal” child is by nature asexual, a being entirely without carnal thoughts, feelings or motivations, their minds and bodies veritable blank slates upon which only pubescence justly and impartially writes the erotic code that makes them into what we designate in our culture as a full-on adult.

The problem with this viewpoint is three-fold: first and most obviously, there is a ton of evidence that contradicts this supposition, as almost any reputable expert on children can tell you; second, it neglects to incorporate the fact that authorities—parents especially—control the dialogue and shape children sexually whether they believe they are doing so or not; second, it ignores the reality that the moral panic surrounding child sexuality, child sexual abuse and pedophilia (which are related but not inseparable issues) have grown in strength over the last few decades, to the point that we now have an aegrescit medendo situation where children and adults alike are being harmed as much or more by the overreaction of society as by the folk devils to which it is responding.

In one of my replies to “a parent” I held up as evidence for this two major examples: the side effects of conservative regions where girls are more likely to get pregnant because of lack of decent sex education, lack of access to birth control, and so on (not to mention getting stuck with a baby before she’s ready thanks to harsh anti-abortion measures in those places), and kids themselves getting arrested as sex offenders after being caught up in sexting cases. I will add to those the following:

  • The sex offender registry, which has resulted in more problems than it’s solved, foremost among them that it creates a perfect hit list for legal, physical and social persecution.
  • The courtesy stigma, name-calling, threats, and educational shutting-out and funding issues that many scholars and researchers face when exploring these issues, especially when their conclusions do not match social and cultural expectations or feed into the biases of politicians.
  • The growth of a powerful and unduly influential victim culture surrounding sexual abuse which often exploits the moral panic for its own gain at the expense of many innocent people and organizations.
  • The blatant exploitation of the sexual abuse moral panic by political entities and demagogues, particularly on the right but also on the left, utilizing it as propaganda against their political rivals. (See: Pizzagate and Qanon)
  • The largely unhelpful “stranger danger” myth, which invests in children a lifelong dread of mostly benign strangers and takes the focus off the real source of most sexual abuse, the child’s own family.
  • The unhealthy guilt complexes, body image issues and fear of intimacy that many children learn as a result of being taught that good/normal children are sexually (read: morally) pure, a personification many of them are simply unable to live up to, and which our society goes to great lengths to enforce, one way or another.
  • And, of course, the irreparable harm that has been done to artists such as Graham Ovenden and Jock Sturges and their subjects, forever tainted by their names being dragged through the thoroughly raked muck—not to mention art as a whole, the entire history of children in art being reinterpreted through the child pornography/child exploitation lens, and many artists unwilling to tackle what has traditionally been a favorite subject for them, the nude child or youth, due to fears of social stigma and/or legal reprisals.

There are others, but these are quite sufficient, I think, to get the point across. We at Pigtails are primarily concerned with the last one.

The thing about “a parent” is that he comes across as quite reasonable in general, and that concerns me more than a thousand trolls posting death threats or idiotic insults ever could. Those types of people tend to be so broadly ignorant and clownishly obnoxious that their take on these matters cannot be taken seriously. On the other hand, “a parent” has positioned himself as an admirer of simple child nudes, which is understandable. As I have said on a number of occasions, child nudity cannot be equated with sexuality across the board. The conflation of those two things is mainly a Western conceit, predominantly in the Anglophone West: Great Britain, Australia, Canada and the United States. So far, so good.

Another thing is that “a parent” does not believe in the asexual child (or so he claims), and so none of what I wrote above is directly applicable to him. But he plays into this prejudice regardless, because one cannot extricate the idea that children are asexual from the position that they should be seen as such when we look at art featuring them. How is “a parent” able to compartmentalize these two conflicting ideas? His argument basically boils down to this: the artist and the art observer can think such things in an abstract way, but an artist who acknowledges this directly in their work is in violation of the all-important taboo and that must remain forbidden lest it endanger children. In essence, then, intellectual recognition of this scientific fact is fine, but woe to the artist who explores this concept directly in his or her work, who has the unmitigated gall to present the sexual child in imagery. That can only be, according to “a parent”, a sign of a pedophilic wet dream expressed on paper or canvas. Artists who present children erotically must be pedophiles, or why else would they create such work? Moebius? Pedophile. Tamburini and Liberatore? Pedophiles. Neil Gaiman? Obviously a pedophile. I mean, not only did he create the Lantiman of Sauk, he also wrote a rather stirring defense of lolicon with his essay Why Defend Freedom of Icky Speech? on his web journal.

Examples of the traditional arts (drawing, painting, sculpture—I’m purposely avoiding dipping into photography here) that either play with eroticism or where children and sexuality meet in some sense are Paul Peel’s A Venetian Bather, Jules Marie Auguste Leroux’s The Mirror, Egon Schiele’s Mädchen mit Federboa, Donatello’s David, Louis Ricardo Falero’s The Planet Venus, works by the Die Brücke collective featuring Fränzi Fehrmann, and Ramon Casas i Carbó’s Flores Deshojadas (Depetaled Flowers), to name a few. But what I want to focus on here is what all of the links in the paragraph above this one have in common: they all feature work from comics artists and writers.

More than any other medium, these have been the target of would-be censors. It’s probably no accident that the one time in American history where an artist was actually convicted on obscenity charges it was for his comics, a medium that has long been viewed as little more than children’s funny books or superhero fantasies by ignorant snobs who don’t understand it. In any case, Mike Diana‘s story is fascinating and should be studied by anyone with an interest in free speech issues and legal precedent. In the late eighties and early nineties the teenage Diana wrote and drew a series of comics with extremely gruesome content—graphic violence and mutilation, rape and child sexual abuse, incest, and likely the most damning offense in the small Florida community where he lived and worked, religious blasphemy—published them in very limited runs at his own expense, and sold them via mail to about three hundred customers around the US for two dollars a pop. Diana had the bad luck of producing his ostentatiously subversive and distasteful work at the same time as the Gainesville Ripper was operating. Diana even became a suspect in those murders, though he was eventually exonerated there. Still, the obscenity charges stuck.

While I cannot defend Diana’s work on its merits (I’m not going to share any of it here; just google it if you’re curious—honestly, it’s so badly drawn and noxious in content that it makes my head hurt to even look at it), the idea that an artist who created something which involved no actual children and that’s about as far from erotic as one can get seems patently absurd to me. I mention this case because it is the extreme, and because, far from accomplishing the goal of “protecting” children from Diana’s work, which almost certainly would’ve been ignored otherwise and slipped into obscurity, all his Kafkaesque trial and conviction really accomplished in the end was putting the spotlight on him and his atrocious art, and now any child who has access to the internet can google it for free. Diana has even had his work shown in international museums. Ho-hum.

Okay, I’ve rambled on long enough. Let’s get to the examples (besides the ones I’ve already linked to). Here is a single panel from a comic I will wait to identify. Out of context, all we can really discern about this image is that it is sexual. The female in bed is performing fellatio on a man, who hovers over her. I will clarify further, because it may not be immediately obvious: the female is a child. Take a good look at it, and withhold judgment if you can. Is this the sort of thing “a parent” would have the government censor?

Now I will identify this image. It is a single panel from the Ignatz Award-nominated semi-autobiographical comic Daddy’s Girl by Debbie Dreschler. This image comes from my own copy of the comic, the square-bound softcover first edition published in 1996 by Fantagraphics. It’s a comic that deals frankly with a young girl’s sexual abuse at the hands of . . . well, a father (not “a father”) during the late fifties and early sixties. In between episodes of sexual abuse, the girl’s life is filled with moments of irony and pathos, such as when her parents take their four children to present gifts to a poor black family during Christmas. The fact that the comic is not subtle about the abuse and does not shy away from depicting it gives Daddy’s Girl a disturbing power that simple fiction could probably never achieve. By design, you cannot look away or consider the abuse as an abstraction. Dreschler forces you to confront it head on. Here are a few pages of this sequence—called Visitors in the Night—for context.

Debbie Dreschler – Daddy’s Girl (1)

Debbie Dreschler – Daddy’s Girl (2)

Debbie Dreschler – Daddy’s Girl (3)

Debbie Dreschler – Daddy’s Girl (4)

I ask again: is this the sort of image that “a parent” would have the state censor? Perhaps. He says:

So my view is that this particular highly specific kind of expression (a drawing graphically depicting sexual abuse of a prepubescent child) should be illegal, even where there’s no proof of direct harm.

He offers a specific set of criteria by which he judges what should or should not be illegal. Many of Dreschler’s images would fall into that category by default. That would be a huge shame, because the work would lose much of its shock value without these scenes. In fact, I’d say it would be nearly impossible for this comic to exist as what it is without such scenes. Maybe “a parent” would differ on that point, but there can be little doubt that these scenes make the work more disturbing than it would otherwise be. And that is the point of them.

Says “a parent”:

Suppose, for example, there is a pen-and-ink drawing in comic-book style of graphic sexual abuse involving an older adult and a prepubescent child. And suppose the artist did not work from photographs or live models in making this drawing, so it can be claimed that there was no “real, direct” harm done. (I’m pretty sure such a thing would be illegal under our current laws, but I’m not absolutely certain, and I’m definitely no expert.) Besides serving as child pornography, what’s the purpose of such a drawing?

I offered an example which fits this description exactly. (And no, such images are not illegal per se, at least not in the US—this has been tested multiple times, and with the exception of Mike Diana, all those artists won their cases.) So, what is the purpose of such drawings? According to “a parent” they can only serve as pornography to stimulate pedophiles. I wonder what Dreschler would think of such an accusation? Maybe I should ask her.

Here is another example from a different comic, Phoebe Gloeckner‘s A Child’s Life. This too is semi-autobiographical . . . and disturbing. Gloeckner’s character Minnie Goetze is a thinly disguised stand-in for her, though Gloeckner herself has never confirmed this, referring to her work simply as fiction. That’s understandable, as she doesn’t just tell her own story—she recounts events from other girls’ lives as well, including a girl called “Tabatha”:

Phoebe Gloeckner – A Child’s Life (1998)

Is this image erotic? Would it turn some folks on? Possibly. But that is not the intent of the artist. Calling this or Dreschler’s blatant depictions of sexual abuse “child pornography” is ignorant and insulting to both of them. Alright, “a parent” might say, so biographical work which clearly isn’t designed to titillate the viewer might get a pass, but what about examples which are less obviously negative?

Okay, let’s take one from Neil Gaiman’s (that perv again!) multiple award-winning series The Sandman, from the one-off issue Ramadan, drawn by the fabulous P. Craig Russell. (Side note: I have the first three of Russell’s Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde books, and they are absolutely gorgeous.) Ramadan is not really about child sexuality or abuse (you can read a summary of the story here if you’re interested, though I recommend reading the actual comic), but it does feature a relevant scene which I remember being somewhat controversial at the time the comic came out in the early nineties:

P. Craig Russell – The Sandman – Ramadan (detail)

Here is the full page for context:

P. Craig Russell – The Sandman – Ramadan

So now we have an example of straight fiction, nothing autobiographical here. There is a single panel (with an inset) in the whole of the story that fits our topic, and unlike Dreschler’s or Gloeckner’s comics, it does not portray it negatively. In fact, the description written by Gaiman makes the “beautiful boys” sound quite appealing. We see no actual sex there, but arguably the boys are drawn sensuously. Is this, then, child pornography? Of course it isn’t. The drawings reinforce the text, but the intent here is certainly not to arouse the viewer. They are presented as part of a larger tapestry, a lovely scene to reinforce that the narrator is a man who enjoys the pleasures of the flesh, be it women or boys. Since the story’s point-of-view character is Haroun al Raschid, the caliph of a medieval-era Middle Eastern city, it makes absolute sense that his perceptions are not modern, and that Gaiman and Russell, presenting us this scene through Haroun’s eyes, would give us boys that are sexually provocative, not presented as victims but as willing and knowing partners, even if they are technically sex slaves. Now, I’m quite sure Russell does not approve of child abuse, and I know Gaiman doesn’t. Nevertheless, it would’ve been ridiculous to offer this scene judgmentally, through modern eyes. It would’ve been obvious and clumsy, taking the reader out of the story.

“Okay, but why include the images at all? Surely they weren’t necessary,” I can hear “a parent” grumbling now. That is beside the point. It is not an artist’s job to go out of their way to avoid triggering sensitive readers. No one doubts that the abuse of young boys occurred in harems like the one described. That’s a historical fact. To gloss over that detail is to feed into political correctness, and the more artists do that, the more they will be expected to do that, until they face arrest for not doing it. Censorship will not stop where “a parent” thinks it should. It doesn’t work that way. It never has. As Gaiman himself said in Why Defend Freedom of Icky Speech?:

The Law is a huge blunt weapon that does not and will not make distinctions between what you find acceptable and what you don’t. This is how the Law is made.

Whether I find any images of children sexually provocative or not (some might find that image by Dreschler to be arousing; I certainly don’t), my tastes should not be the deciding factor on whether something is illegal or not. Nor should the tastes of “a parent”, nor should the tastes of any particular person or group of persons.

Says “a parent”:

Well, I feel that freedom of expression is very, very important. But it’s not really freedom of expression that’s at issue. It is freedom of a highly specific and narrow range of expression, namely depiction of children as objects of sexual desire. Out of all art and ideas, I think this is an exceedingly tiny slice of a huge pie. Any legislation in this area would leave the vast, overwhelming majority of artistic expression completely unimpeded.

I doubt very much that “a parent” actually believes this, or that he would stand against it if, say, adult porn was on the censor’s chopping block. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I doubt it. He adds, in defense of his view:

It’s critical to realize that child pornography is not on even ground with other “ideas.” We not talking about appealing to the thoughts or the emotions. Appealing to sexual urges–particularly to urges that must harm children if they are fully gratified–is a different basic kind of thing from other types of expression.

Okay. Disregarding for a moment the fact that this is special pleading, I have to ask why is “child pornography”—remember, we’re talking about drawings here—different? Because it is the image of a crime? No, I’ve seen actual photos of murdered children (I wish I hadn’t, but they’re out there)—those are also images of actual crimes, yet they aren’t outlawed. But images of violence do not encourage some unspecified fraction of humanity to commit more crimes, right? Do we know this for a fact? I mean, there have certainly been murderers who have claimed that violent imagery pushed them towards their own murder sprees. Who’s to say it isn’t true? Ah, but it’s a very small percentage of humanity who would be influenced to those ends, eh? Well, “a parent” himself says that pedophiles are such a meager minority that censoring images that might influence them shouldn’t be considered on the same level as other sorts of images, and he says “normal” people, which he defines as the vast majority of humanity, is appalled by such images, and certainly aren’t turned on by them. In other words, not only is he guilty of special pleading, he’s also spouting the bandwagon fallacy as a defense.

Are there folks who get off on violent imagery? Unquestionably. But “a parent” suggests that sex is somehow very different from other provocative concepts like violence, because it doesn’t appeal to thoughts or emotions. Well, what the ever-loving fuck does it appeal to then? A base drive? Is violence not a base drive in us too? Are some people not compelled by their lizard brains to violently destroy that which they hate and fear? Of course they are. But that’s different, because . . .

Because why? Because it doesn’t appeal to pedophiles. That’s it. That’s all it comes down to in the end. They are a tiny minority says “a parent”, and children are too precious and vulnerable to risk them being abused by those few weak souls who might be (not have been, not definitely will be, but might be) encouraged to offend. Look, the only reason to outlaw actual child porn is because it’s consumption encourages the production of more, and we are talking about actual abuse in that case. Children are offended against for the explicit purpose of the production of child porn. In other words, it can only exist because sexual abuse has been committed, and the producer(s) did so with that express purpose in mind. But to extend that argument to drawings, paintings and the like where no real children were actually harmed in its production, on the grounds that it might cause a few people to act out on their sexual urges, is a clear example of thought-crime. You can argue that pedophilia is more than thoughts or feelings all you want to. Hell, I’ll even agree with you on that. But the fact is, when you get right down to it, you are outlawing a thought, an idea, a concept. Make no mistake: if we can outlaw erotic drawings of kids on the grounds that it might cause some people to commit sexual abuse, then it’s not a stretch to suggest that adult porn could likewise be outlawed because it might push some people into rape (sex drive, right?), but we don’t outlaw it on those grounds. Not in America anyway.

Ah, but that’s not why adult porn exists, “a parent” will say. And around and around the circle we go. Most artists, even those who deliberately draw pedophilic erotica, aren’t sitting there thinking, “Ha! I’ll make drawings in order to push people into molesting kids! Mwa ha ha ha!” To make that argument is to assume that anyone with the least bit of interest in such content is inherently immoral, prone to abusing kids and seeking to make others like them. “A parent” says if such content is allowed to exist, kids will be abused because of it. He states it as fact, yet offers no evidence to back it up. Well, I know of a country where a great deal of such content exists, is legal for purchase, indeed is found in comics and magazine shops all around the country. I don’t think I even need to name it. And yet there isn’t scads of child rape and abuse happening there. In fact, that country has low crime rates all the way around. Moreover, many studies show that where porn exists legally, sex offenses tend to plummet. Why would it be any different for child erotica? After all, sex with kids is forbidden across the board, unlike sex with consenting adults. Clearly, having such outlets is more beneficial than harmful. But, by all means “a parent”, offer me evidence which demonstrates that I’m wrong and I’ll reconsider.

Finally (whew!), I will offer this. Here is a comic which actually condones child abuse, brought to you by way of the Kids Tract Club. You reckon it’s been influential?

Artist Unknown (Kids’ Tract Club) – Lil’ Bess (1)

Artist Unknown (Kids’ Tract Club) – Lil’ Bess (2)

Achieving Unity in a Painting

I am delighted at the rapport that has developed between Graham Ovenden and myself. Although we both look forward to these annual visits, I do feel a bit guilty that my presence interferes with Graham’s painting routine. But not every stage of the painting is equally complex and so I was treated to a demonstration of glazing.

1. Contemplating a plan

I was told that I was the first person to witness this process. Certainly this is an expression of trust. But even if another painter were to watch, it would not necessarily have affected his own technique. Another artist, Adam Fuss, has openly expressed irritation when asked about his techniques. His reply was always something like, “Why, are you going to try this at home? What difference does it make how I do it?” Although there is value to a formal education in painting, each artist has his own vision and has to accomplish it in his own way. Psychologically, this is a very interesting point. As far as technique is concerned, the artist must find a conceptual comfort zone on how he is to achieve his vision. (Please excuse the English language’s proclivity for sexism. I, of course, am referring to female artists as well when applying the marked pronoun.) In the case of Graham Ovenden, his paintings—both figural and landscape—are constructed in several layers that create an effect that is hard to fathom when merely viewing photographs of his work. This terracing is a way of introducing subtle psychological depth to what we are looking at. From a pragmatic perspective, it gives the image some dimension while, perhaps more importantly, creating the impression of translucence.

The consequence of this particular method is that paintings cannot be produced in a hurry. Each layer must be completely dry before the next can begin. That way if there is some kind of error or the artist changes his mind, that layer can be cleaned off cleanly without damaging the foundation.

Glazing is the process of introducing a uniform layer to the canvas. Besides adding some depth, Graham says that the single color provides a unifying effect on the overall composition. In other words, it brings together the components into a radiant whole.

2. Mixing the colors

Graham is not the only artist who uses glazing. Some artists who wish a very faint glaze will use thinning agents. Graham does not do this but mixes his paints at full saturation. Out of necessity operating in a small flat, he has discovered that using a sheet of plate glass makes a most effective palette. It is strong, does not wear out and can be cleaned completely preventing any subtle contamination of colors that may have been used before.

3. Applying the glaze

He applies the paint by troweling it on with a small metal instrument.

4. Complete coverage

All the layers of the painting are quite thin and must be highly uniform. In fact, the texture of the surface is so important, Graham avoids using cloth canvases because it biases the proper build-up of the terraces. When examined closely, the painting is constructed almost in the fashion of an etching.

5. Smoothing

When the area is completely covered, the glazing is wiped off with rags to remove any inconsistencies in thickness. Any remaining blotches are individually dabbed off with a quick patting from the side of the hand.

6. Touching up remaining splotches

Some fine-tuning with a more precise instrument accentuates certain contours giving the final desired effect. Once the glazing is complete, it will be several days before it is safe to paint on the canvas again.

7. Some finer touch-ups

8. Glazing complete

Note: Please understand that I am not a painter, so please forgive me if I did not use the proper terms of this craft. -Ron

Maiden Voyages: July 2019

I have returned from my visit to Graham and because he has shared some goodies with me, that means I will in due course be sharing them with you.

Revisionist History? I was informed that for some unknown reason, (The Wayback Machine) is no longer allowing Pigtails’ posts to be archived. Without more information from that organization, the assumption here is that has bowed to political pressure to censor us at this point. Those wishing to protest and demand an intelligible explanation are encouraged to do so by emailing to I have so far not even received a perfunctory response to my request for more information.

Absolutely Mortifying: When someone offers a lead on an artist, especially one who is living, I like to support these artists with a little publicity. I also assume that the person making the recommendation has some personal knowledge of the artist and can vouch for his legitimacy. On February 6, 2015, I produced a short post on Kye Tanson, a photographer featured in an Australia exhibition—an event that suggested that he was above board. I am mortified to learn that Mr. Tanson was in fact a confidence man who repeatedly took advantage of children. I am inclined in this environment of witch-hunting to question such charges. However, in this case, Mr. Tanson plead guilty to 60 counts of various sex offenses against children. Given these circumstances, I find it unlikely that this was a show trial as Mr. Tanson was not a well-known figure so politicians would not have made any political hay out of making an example of him. Under these conditions, I have decided to remove the Tanson post from public view. Although he does seem a competent photographer, I do not want Pigtails in Paint contributing to any further trauma of the subjects who may have modeled because of undue coercion. You can read more about Kye Tanson’s case here.

Conservative Extremists Are All Alike: This is bit of an older item but still worthy of note. An ultra-orthodox Jewish leader has reportedly banned girls aged five and up from riding bicycles, claiming it is ‘immodest’. The rabbi in question, of the Jerusalem neighborhood of Nahloat, issued the stringent decree to his followers in synagogues in the area. Read more here. This hearkens back to a time when bicycle-riding first became popular among women in the Unites States. Due to concerns about modesty, they were required to wear special bloomers or similar leggings to avoid accidentally showing a naked shin!

A Brave New World for Girls: In a recent commentary discussion, climber Selah Schneiter was mentioned. It is heartening to learn that very young girls continue to  make great strides in the arts and athletics. You can read more about Miss Schneiter here and here. Of particular interest in the commentary was the fact that however amazing a child’s accomplishments may be, the active presence and support of parents is an important contribution.

Passing Seasons: Graham Arnold

One of the many delightful things about visiting Graham Ovenden every year is that I sometimes get to meet some of his engaging friends. I had hoped that Graham Arnold (1932–2019) would be among them one day. He, along with Ovenden and a tightly-knit group of artists, established themselves as The Ruralists. Unfortunately, Mr. Arnold passed away a couple of months ago so now we can only offer some of the work of an artist who brought the world his crisp and distinct style. Whenever Arnold did depict the figures of girls in his paintings, they were usually adolescents or young women, but there were a few exceptions.

Graham Arnold – The Eclipse at Clun (date unknown)

Amongst the numerous Ruralist exhibitions that featured the work of Graham Arnold was one that played on the theme of Lewis Carroll’s Alice.‭ ‬We display two of his works here,‭ ‬devoted to this subject,‭ ‬which shows the beauty and individuality of Arnold’s vision.‭ ‬These works were not only shown in a number of museums in Great Britain but also,‭ ‬to great acclaim,‭ ‬in Tokyo,‭ ‬Japan. -Graham Ovenden, 2019

Dream Child is a depiction of Alice as she falls down the Rabbit Hole.‭ ‬The design is a homage to the great Renaissance painter Piero della Francesca who was deeply loved by Arnold.

Graham Arnold – Dream Chlid (1990)

Alice Balancing shows the prismatic nature of much of Arnold’s work:‭ ‬the importance of color,‭ ‬geometry and draughtsmanship,‭ ‬all held in a unity.

Graham Arnold – Alice Balancing (1992)

Arnold’s knowledge of music was more than considerable and in many respects the motif of youthful feminine beauty,‭ ‬which is apparent in many of his paintings and collages,‭ ‬are the creation of a mind in harmonic unity with its chosen subject.‭ ‬This is a quality also found in his paintings of‭ ‬still life,‭ ‬which like his numerous collages place him at the fore of twentieth century innovation, but one unpolluted by the morés and fashions of modernism. -Graham Ovenden, 2019

Garden Box is an example of Arnold’s mastery in the art of collage.‭ Included among the i‬mages is a photographic portrait by Ron Oliver.

Graham Arnold – Garden Box (date unknown)

In an effort to coordinate their efforts, The Ruralists would agree upon particular themes and prepare works of art concurrently with that theme as in Lewis Carroll’s Alice above. Another such subject was that of Ophelia.

Graham Arnold – Ophelia (date unknown)

A few complimentary overviews of Arnold’s work were published after his passing. Take a look here and here.

Thanks go to Graham Ovenden for his rapid preparation of background materials so that we may share this small taste of Mr. Arnold’s legacy in a timely fashion. Currently in production is a considerable volume of Graham Arnold’s life work to be published by Garage Press. It will include written commentary made by the artist himself as well as a foreword by Jerrold Northrop Moore.

Random Images: Colleen Doran

Here’s a lovely Art Nouveau-style illustration by comics artist and author Colleen Doran. I’m a huge fan of her space opera comics series A Distant Soil, which often features several beautifully rendered child characters.

My next post will be a much larger one, but with Ron out of the country we’ve been on something of a hiatus. Things should be returning to normal near the end of the month.

Colleen Doran – Inexorable

Colleen Doran (Official Site)

Wikipedia: Colleen Doran

Pierre Brun illustration from Revue des Arts Décoratifs

There is virtually no information available about French illustrator Pierre Brun (who is not to be confused with earlier artist Jean-Baptiste Pierre Le Brun, though he may have been related to him). This is one of a handful of works I could find attributed to him, and the only one that really fit the Pigtails theme. It comes from the French art and style magazine Revue des Arts Décoratifs, though I couldn’t tell you which issue or page. Otherwise I might be able to find a better copy of it elsewhere. But this one isn’t bad.  After a bit of cleaning up, that is. It definitely fits into the Art Nouveau mode and was a practice example of a border illustration such as was often found in books of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Pierre Brun – From ‘Revue des Arts Décoratifs’

Pierre Brun – From ‘Revue des Arts Décoratifs’ (detail)


Maiden Voyages: June 2019

It is once again time to visit my friend Graham. Pip and Christian will be holding down the fort in the mean time. I will return on June 21st. Be advised that any comments for Ron or “Administrator” will not be approved or answered until I return.

The Garage Press Site at Long Last: When I first heard about Graham Ovenden’s recent publishing efforts, I searched in earnest for any sign on the internet—all to no avail. I am pleased to announce that the official Garage Press website is now in place. Although the purpose of the publishing enterprise is to provide high end museum-quality books, now serious collectors willing to pay for quality will have a chance to order these books as well. Please note that these books cover a range of artistic and academic subjects and do not just focus on young girls. Also, serious postcard collectors will have the opportunity to contribute in an upcoming project about the multitude of wonderful Victorian and Edwardian postcards. You can visit the site here.

Father-Daughter Bonding: Pip found this charming video of a father who learned to do his daughter’s hair.

The Flying Squirrel: I got this lead a while ago and, for some reason, did not get around to publishing it. This one is about a kind of prodigy surfer. You can get started with this video, but there is plenty more on this amazing athlete.

More Medical Contrivances? Ever since I brought up this concept, Moko has been digging around for more examples. He found an interesting photo of a school medical exam in the Soviet Union in 1932. At first he was not sure if it was a medical contrivance. But a little research revealed that the girls did not actually need to be naked for the procedures shown. However, it is possible that having children disrobe for exams was customary for Russia at the time (perhaps to spot other conditions). It seems that students normally wore underwear for the exams except for during a brief and private session with the doctor. Here’s a link to the Russian exam board that references the photo (Note the post dated 15.08.15 01:27). And here’s an example of the boys’ exam.

The Challenges of Lists: I feel we got a good start on the Pigtails films archive, but I am beginning to realize the challenge of deciding whether or not the girl is a substantive part of a film. Even films centered around a little girl may simply be following a Hollywood formula and hardly worthy of note (unless you just happen to be a fan of that particular actress). In the next year, I am planning to add some small comment to each entry, giving readers a better idea of whether a film is worth watching. I would also like to thank those who have so far offered leads that I have missed.

The Child Portraits of Kate T. Parker

Kate T. Parker is a commercial photographer who, in addition to producing images for many global companies, also photographs her own children and their friends. The artist was already working in the advertising industry when she started to photograph her children. At first she was making these images to document and create memories of their childhood, as well as learning how to create photos that matched her idea of what a good photograph looked like. As she had always been submitting images to art galleries it was inevitable that a photographic club, society or gallery would accept some of her images for an exhibition. In 2014, two of Kate’s photographs were accepted by a women’s photography club for an art display that was held at Mason Murer Fine Art. Two months later the gallery owner liked her images sufficiently enough that he offered her a place in another upcoming group exhibition entitled ‘Under My Roof’. The twenty images she displayed were black and white photographs depicting her two children, Alice and Ella, at play. After the show the photographer sent the twenty images to where they agreed to place them in an article. The Huffington Post noticed the web page and went onto create their own article, which subsequently went viral and gathered worldwide attention.

Kate T. Parker – (Untitled) (Date Unknown 1)

Kate T. Parker – (Untitled) (Date Unknown 2)

Kate’s next project was to create the book Strong is the New Pretty: A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves and most images in this article come from this publication. The book contains about 175 images of girls who live across America, including her own daughters and their friends. The photographs show the girls playing sport, learning, either at home or in a school, creating art or simply playing and being normal kids. The girls that were photographed were also interviewed and their responses are printed next to their image. Some quotes are simple, yet adorable, for example “I can be whatever I want, even a unicorn” to more inspiring quotes such as “Many girls grew up dreaming of a hero to save them. I grew up dreaming of becoming one”.

Kate T. Parker – (Untitled) (Date Unknown 3)

Kate T. Parker – (Untitled) (Date Unknown 4)

The book was also created to celebrate the confidence that girls have, as well as to reignite that confidence in girls or women who may have lost that feeling. In an article for Insider magazine the artist described it like this.

Every photo celebrates confidence—something many women lose as they get older. When girls reach puberty, they lose the sense [that] they’re awesome just as they are. As you get older you just lose that sense of confidence. One of the reasons that I started this project was that I didn’t want my girls to lose it. I wanted my girls to have this sort of recollection, these actual physical pictures, like, remember what a badass I was?


Kate T. Parker – (Untitled) (Date Unknown 5)

Kate T. Parker – (Untitled) (Date Unknown 6)

Kate T. Parker – (Untitled) (Date Unknown 7)

The book was released worldwide and has been translated into many other languages; it appeared on the American best selling book list an well as being listed in The Best Books of 2017 (Amazon), Books of the Year and Pick of the Day, 2017 (A Mighty, Feminist Kids Books for Dismantling the Patriarchy (NY Mag), and “Heather’s Picks” Chapters/Indigo (Canada).

Kate T. Parker – (Untitled) (Date Unknown 8)

Kate T. Parker – (Untitled) (Date Unknown 9)

Kate T. Parker – (Untitled) (Date Unknown 10)

Kate’s ‘Strong is the New Pretty’ photo collection has continued, and has also increased the number of companies that she does commercial work for. One of these is the Dream Big Princess photo campaign, run by the Disney Company. The #DreamBigPrincess project displays about sixty works from nineteen female photographers and Kate has provided at least five images. The campaign website describes itself as being an inspirational project, though I consider it more a princess rehabilitation project as the “princess image” is being pummeled in the current girl-child empowerment movement that we are currently transitioning through. As princesses are a major source of income for Disney then maybe they fear a reduction in their revenue? Kate, or more specifically her nine year old daughter Alice and friends, turned the idea of being a princess upside down. The artist’s photo series is partly inspirational as the images seek to show us that princesses can act in any way they want. Alice and her friends have literally been dressed as Disney princesses then they were photographed as they played. I have displayed what I think is the best of the five photos and is also the last one, it shows the aftermath of a mud fight the girls have had. Alice is in the foreground dressed as Snow White.

Kate T. Parker – (Untitled) (2016)

In addition to commercial work Kate T. Palmer is releasing more books with Strong is the New Pretty: The Guided Journal, published in October 2018 and The Heart of a Boy will be published in April 2019. Her family photographs and art projects are displayed on her Instagram account.

Kate T. Parker – (Untitled Instagram Image) (2018)

A Most Charming Lucky Charm: La Nigüenta

No one is exactly sure what gave rise to one of Costa Rica’s most enduring icons. All we know is that for decades, few Costa Rican homes were without an image or statuette of the nude toddler girl known as la Nigüenta (or sometimes La Niña de la Espina). Her name comes from the fact that she is in the act of picking out a nigua, a tiny bothersome flea whose larva has a habit of burrowing into the human foot, especially the soft bit of flesh between the big toe and the second toe of the human foot, causing extreme itching, swelling and infection. In fact, one nickname of the insect is bicho de pie, or “foot bug” in English. It’s a bit confounding how a child with such an unlucky affliction came to be a symbol of good luck, but that is indeed the case.

Artist Unknown – La Nigüenta (original print)

Some say the original image was inspired by an ancient Greco-Roman sculpture called Spinario (Boy with Thorn), which has a fascinating history in its own right. Others suggest it can trace its history to pre-Columbian shamanic women. If the latter is true, it underscores the cleverness of the natives, hiding a powerful pagan emblem beneath the noses of the Catholic Spanish colonizers in such an innocent and seemingly innocuous form. Whatever its history, honoring and displaying this sweet little girl in the home somehow eventually became one of Costa Rica’s most honored and important agüizotes. As an article from the Tico Times says:

Offerings were left for her to ask for good fortune or a particular favor. Today, she is seen as primarily an enchantment to bring economic prosperity. It helps to tuck a few bills under her base, or to prime the pump, if you will. A Nigüenta received as a gift is a far more potent charm than one purchased.

For that reason la Nigüenta is often given as a gift to older and more traditional Costa Ricans, who proudly give her a place of prominence on their televisions, altars, desks, mantles or coffee tables. Different colored ribbons might also be tied around her neck, depending on what one wanted her to direct her good fortune towards: red for love, yellow for money, blue for health, and so on.

The sculptures come in a variety of styles and colors, from plain one- or two-color ones to elaborately painted affairs.

Ale Rambar – Nigüenta rosada (2018)

Ale Rambar – Nigüenta dorada (2019)

Ale Rambar (official site)

Artist Unknown – La Nigüenta (1)

Artist Unknown – La Nigüenta (2)

Artist Unknown – La Nigüentas for sale (1)

Artist Unknown – La Nigüentas for sale (2)

These days she is apt to appear in advertisements, cartoons or modern reinterpretations.

Artist Unknown – ARS SDS ad

Rafael de los Santos (Poteleche) – La Niña de la Espina (2016)

Poteleche (official site)

Note: The Spanish text of this cartoon says something to the effect of “I’ve been trying to get this thing out for years and no one will stoop to help me.” 🙂

Artist Unknown – La Nigüenta (Holalola poster)

Ale Rambar – La Nigüenta

Gioco Roesch – La Nigüenta

Blogspot: Gioco Roesch de Todo

One can even find examples dressed in the shirts of their favorite soccer teams!

Artist Unknown – La Nigüentas (3)

Random Scenes: The Big Bang Theory

It may be covering well-trodden ground to mention a TV series of this popularity, but I really get a kick out of this scene and the fact that the TV viewing public is able to comprehend the humor of the situation says something about today’s society.

For those who have not seen the series, The Big Bang Theory is kind of a coming-of-age story about a set of socially-awkward, geeky scientists. The most socially arrested of the bunch is Dr. Sheldon Cooper, a theoretical scientist. In a Season 2 episode, he realizes that to get something he wants, he has to suck up to one of his colleagues and goes on a quest to figure out how to master making friends. Naturally, he tries to do this using book learning and the results are quite amusing.

Chuck Lorre, Bill Prady et al - The Big Bang Theory: The Friendship Algorithm (2009)

The premise is interesting. Sheldon in his own social innocence sees no problem in making friends with a little girl (Rebecca played by Jade Zdanow) while his roommate understands the potential hazards and whisks him away from the scene. Zdanow also starred in a short film, Specifically (2010), in which she and a little boy play out a Bergmanesque marriage scenario.