Guns And Roses

The two finished paintings

The two finished paintings

Last weekend, I found myself in two very strange places, where I learned some valuable lessons about our society as a whole.

The Gun Show

I do not know many people who own guns. This may well be because the majority of my friends are liberal, indoorsy types. I, too, infinitely prefer to shoot guns in the safety of video games, and not real life. However, I’ve always been captivated by several types of guns, such as the AR15 80% lower, and the various designs that distinguish them.

I would not want to own a gun myself, but I do not claim to know where the line ought to be drawn between the right to bear arms and the interests of public safety.

And yet I have shot guns in real life before – two of them, a Sig Sauer SIG 556 Classic SWAT rifle and a CZ-75 BD Police 9mm pistol, at Koko Crater Shooting Complex, under the watchful eye of my boyfriend, who, as one of the few gun owners in our social circles, has ended up taking just about everybody shooting at one point.

So I was not surprised when he requested that I accompany him to the Great Guns 2017 show at the Blaisdell.

There were lots of guns, historical and new, for sale and on display, as well as their accompanying ammunition, bullet chronograph, accessories, and other parts. There were also a substantial number of tables dedicated to swords, knives, military surplus goods, model tanks, and, strangely, coins.

As my boyfriend somehow ended up in conversation with what felt like every table we stopped at, I found myself reminded of another big convention – Kawaii Kon. And I don’t just mean in terms of love of bladed weaponry.

These are people who love their hobby. They want to talk about how a certain gun shoots or what the benefits are of this particular grip. They want to make recommendations about where to obtain the best guns from. They want to discuss a gun contest or two where you can win quality firearms and ammunition. They want to share in this camaraderie with you.

It was not so different from the zeal I find at the anime convention, where nobody bats an eye when a girl with neon pink hair strolls past with wings and a gigantic bow in hand.

To the outsider, it can be off-putting, maybe even distasteful, and certainly politically loaded either way. I’ve felt the sting of this feeling myself (in the anime context). But in its way, both passions are so pure, so earnest. How strange it is when we exit our comfort zones and interact with new people. We are not so different, you and I.

The Paint Night

Quite some time ago, Wine & Canvas had sent me gift certificates (in appreciation for an assignment for a different publication). I’ve held on to them all this time because … why would I go to a paint night? I still draw the way I did in elementary school, which is to say: badly.

But my house was in need of new wall décor. And I saw an event listing for a moonlit painting of birds framed by sakura blossoms. That’s my jam. So we went forth.

The experience was smooth and quite fine, I thought: Our class of 10 sat in the back of Square Barrels, where we received step-by-step instructions on how to recreate the painting. I bemusedly thought it resembled art education under the auspices of a standards-based STEM curriculum. My boyfriend found the whole experience deeply stressful.

I did at first, too (putting the gradient effect in those “scalloped” clouds was surprisingly difficult), but after a while I calmed down. I wasn’t quite following the directions stroke for stroke, but the result wasn’t that bad. I liked how my moon was shaded (a tad blacker than suggested), how lush I made my cherry blossoms (more abstract than suggested).

It was an adaptation of the sample, not an exact replica. It is creativity within the safe but strict confines of the event (instructor Katrina later re-painted one of my substandard birds).

You could even say it is a reflection of our human nature, our need for structure to govern the chaos of our lives – an argument against pure democracy and for the institution of the republic, even – in the midst of our natural yearning for individual expression. Or it could be an odious commentary on the contemporary artistic tendency to imitate, as opposed to create from scratch. Is it a coincidence that paint parties are thriving in the age of the reboot and sequel?

It was definitely food for thought. And the painting looks nice on the hallway wall.