Babylon Berlin & George Grosz

George Grosz_John the Woman Slayer
George Grosz. “John the Woman Slayer.”

Just finished watching the period detective noir series Babylon Berlin. Oh my. Didn’t see THAT ending coming. Wish I had read up a little on Weimar Republic history, first — but the storyline was still gripping, even though the many twists and turns of the plot left me a little puzzled and occasionally aghast. I recommend it (but don’t watch it with children around).

George Grosz. Eclipse of the Sun.

The brilliant period settings and characters remind me of George Grosz’ scathingly satirical pre-WWII paintings, complete w/butchers at their bloody trade; crippled, begging, WWI veterans; prostitutes in action, communist revolutionaries, greedy elites, escapist cabaret culture, and everywhere the poor and dispossessed. Grosz’ images — ranging from cubist and futurist to his acerbic drawings — are too often disturbingly relevant nowadays.

George Grosz_Nobody Cares About Them
George Grosz. Nobody Cares About Them.

Like the indigent soldiers he often portrayed, Grosz was a veteran of WWI, and his wartime experiences left him a life-long pacifist and activist who was very critical of German nationalist society, as well as any society that promoted violence and war.

He was prosecuted for “blasphemy” in 1928 after producing paintings that criticized the clergy, and eventually escaped to the U.S. in the 1930s after Hitler’s government declared him “degenerate” — probably in retaliation for his drawings and paintings that portrayed pre-war Berlin, and Germany’s culture as a whole, as debauched and degenerate.

George Grosz_Nachts

My Drawings expressed my despair, hate and disillusionment, I drew drunkards; puking men; men with clenched fists cursing at the moon. … I drew a man, face filled with fright, washing blood from his hands … I drew lonely little men fleeing madly through empty streets. I drew a cross-section of tenement house: through one window could be seen a man attacking his wife; through another, two people making love; from a third hung a suicide with body covered by swarming flies. I drew soldiers without noses; war cripples with crustacean-like steel arms; two medical soldiers putting a violent infantryman into a strait-jacket made of a horse blanket … I drew a skeleton dressed as a recruit being examined for military duty. I also wrote poetry. — George Grosz*

*Friedrich, Otto (1986). Before the Deluge. USA: Fromm International Publishing Corporation. pp. 37. ISBN 0-88064-054-5



Between the Lines

Thinking about borders, state lines, travel, and migration. Map is 1949 Texaco map showing CA, AZ, and Mexico. “Between the Lines” is 25 x 38 inches, acrylics and collage on heavy watercolor paper.

Between the Lines
“Between the Lines,” 38 x 25 inches, acrylics & collage on watercolor paper. Jean Vengua


Between the Lines_in WallApp_JVengua
“Between the Lines,” 38 x 25 inches, acrylics & collage on watercolor paper. Jean Vengua





Playing around with sfumato, organic shapes, flowingness. “Lachrymose.” #Acrylics & ink on watercolor paper. 25 x 38 inches.

Lachrymose_LG_JVengua 7-2018
“Lachrymose,” 25 x 38 inches. Acrylics & ink on watercolor paper. Jean Vengua 7/2018
“Lachrymose.” Acrylics/ink on watercolor paper. 25 x 38,” Jean Vengua




Level 9 Warrior

9th Level Warrior

I’ve been bouncing between writing a grant for a 2019 historical exhibit, finishing a painting, and tutoring grad students in one of my two freelance gigs. It’s not the best situation for keeping a focused mind, but I’m doing the best I can. Lately I’ve been using Habitica to help me keep focused on daily habits and work goals. It adds a bit of whimsy to the process; if I don’t meet my quota for the day, I “lose health.” If I do well, I get rewards that most gamers would be familiar with. I’m working on my 9th level, have some armor, a fancy helmet, a bardic cloak, and best of all, a big purple wolf as my companion and familiar. That, a walk, and a cup of kukicha gets me through the day…

Thanks. . .

It’s always great to hear when someone has purchased one of my designs on RedBubble. So, to whoever purchased “Ang mga Bundok” design (on a scarf), thanks very much! I hope you get much enjoyment from it.

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“Ang mga Bundok” (At the Mountains) by Jean Vengua/Okir

You can see more of my designs at:

Easels, vertebrae, drawing, etc.

haptic,charcoal,newsprint,twig charcoal
“Feather Haptic,” oak twig charcoal (from a controlled burn) on newsprint. 3/18/2013.

Got my MRI results, and looks like I have an “acute” fracture to L4/L5 vertebrae (“acute” sounds scary, but in Dr. talk apparently means “one time,” not chronic) rather than “really bad” in lay-person talk). Likely happened while moving furniture, dragging, twisting my body, to move this huge easel that someone donated to me. Good news is that it’s healing now. Much less pain, no osteoporosis — although I have a bit of arthritis, not unusual for someone my age. Will start core exercises in 2 – 3 weeks to help fend off this sort of injury.

Also thinking about the fact that doing larger works involves larger movements. I tried doing large haptics on a table, but it made my back sore from bending over the surface. It’s easier to do that kind of drawing standing straight up. Repetitive painting movements involving just one shoulder can become an issue too, creating stiff/sore shoulders. I think of Trisha Brown’s performative drawings; it would be great to have the flexibility/stamina/training to do something like that. Could be interesting to try both left and right hands/shoulders for haptic work; see what happens. Then of course, one can go smaller, as I’ve mentioned previously. Aging is, after all, a process of getting physically  smaller, and — well, finally disappearing.

Or perhaps you get bigger, even as your physical frame gets smaller? As a woman and a Filipina, I feel I’ve spent enough time (so much!) suppressing and compressing over the years. Basta! I’d like to stretch out to my limits, or fly past them.

Myndology: Tiny Collages

Tiny collages by Jean Vengua

I’m continuing to make tiny collages in my Myndology sketchbook on a ring. Each page fits in the palm of my hand. I think this particular notebook was originally made for creating DIY flashcards. Here’s what I’ve done so far, spread out on a dining table chair.  Thinking too much, and too long, about every painting is definitely a problem for me, and this helps me to just get something down without getting anxious and hung up in the details. Plus I love recycling all my excess scrap paper into art, and these make useful little studies.  Maybe someday I’ll frame a group of them (individually) and have a teeny exhibit. Actually, I’m thinking of doing that for my Open Studio in September (with larger pieces, too).

#collage #sketchbook #artist#montereyartists #salinasartists

The View Within #collage

collage by Jean Vengua
“The View Within,” collage by Jean Vengua

“The View Within” is a small collage that I made many years ago, perhaps one of the first collages I ever made, with images cut from a magazine. And there are the maps again, but also a body, and a house, or perhaps a variation on a Philippine nipa hut (bahay kubo). Like the earth, bodies can also be mapped.

Test Piece #collage

Collage by Jean Vengua
“CA-AZ Line.” Acrylics and collage on Khadi paper. 8 x 8″

This is a test piece for a larger work. I ripped a fragment from an old CA/NV/AZ map and used it here. But then, looking at the map (which I bought at a yard sale), with its olive green, pink, and red lines more closely, I felt a bit of regret about cutting a piece out of it. I hadn’t looked closely at the map when I bought it, but it’s an old Texaco “touring map,” circa 1948, with a route penciled in from Stockton to San Fernando, with “Fresno” and “Tulare” circled. Bits of mid-century advice dot the map: “Watch for them!” over an illustration of a bicyclist; “Diamond shaped highway signs always indicate danger to you”; “Give [hand] signals before you begin to change direction” (cartoon of hand signaling out the driver’s window); and an illustration of an overturned turtle above “Please turn the map over!” Over all, the big red “T” for Texaco on a red star. I know the map was from an ex-military owner (I also bought a Tuskegee airmen pamphlet at the sale), and perhaps this  represented a happy post-war trip. Who knows. . .  But it’s a snapshot in time, when beautiful Glen Canyon, on the Colorado River, was still running free, its ancient petroglyphs and pictographs still visible above the water line, and neither the infamous and disputed Glen Canyon dam nor Lake Powell existed. Unexpectedly, the test piece also got me thinking about the lines we draw to contain and/or separate, and to map and claim; the seemingly arbitrary shapes and lines that declare a state or territory, and their effects on local life and culture.