Friday, May 15, 2020

Anatomy of a Circus...part 1

Anatomy = a study of the structure or internal workings of something

(Circus 1930 pen and ink 29"x 23")

 When I put a piece of my artwork on display in public, it is a habit of mine to stand at a distance and observe the individuals and groups of people that gather to look...and look closer. Some, even with noses pressed to the glass to finely inspect the line strokes. At times, ten or more minutes are spent by the viewer carefully scrutinizing the actions, body language, facial features and all the fine points missed at their first glance. Then I will take the opportunity to walk over and introduce myself and great conversations concerning the artwork follows.

 The viewers will bombard me with a host of long did it take you? that pencil?...what kind of pen(s) did you use?...did you copy an old photograph?...where did the idea for that come from?... and on and on.

 Using my latest pen and ink piece,"Circus 1930" as an example, I will answer these questions and more plus add insights into the thought process behind the construction that lead to completion.

The foundation forged in Monrovia, CA....
  I was nine years old when I began to draw in pen (ball point pen) though my earliest drawing experience takes me back to four years of age. At that age I remember placing wax paper over comic book covers to copy the image. My wife says I've got one of those "elephant never forgets" memories:- ). I do remember important stuff like this 'first' for me.

Dated 1962, these sketchbook images have survived almost six decades.

 At age twelve, using a quill pen dipped in an ink bottle, I copied Karl Hubenthal's sports cartoons that appeared in the Los Angeles Examiner newspaper, various artists of Mad magazine and photos in sports and Hot Rod magazines.
(Copied K. Hubenthal's cartoons from newspaper)

(Copying a MAD magazine artist and adding colored ink)

Somewhere along my young artistic journey I discovered colored inks:- )
(Copying from a sports magazine and adding colored ink...and yes, football fans that is Bobby Mitchell who passed recently 4/5/20)


(Again, copying a Big Daddy Roth cartoon from a car magazine)

A few years later at Clifton  Jr. High school,

I drew pen and ink cartoons for the sports page in the school yearbook, the Cliftonian.           


My junior year at Monrovia High this class project (below) was entered into competition.


(right)  In the Pacific Ballroom of the Statler Hotel at the 22nd annual Gold Key Scholastic Awards Presentation, I was awarded a Gold Key (on the right, with gold key hanging below the plaque).

 The piece went on to New York in the national Scholastic Art Awards project sponsored by Scholastic Magazine and I was awarded a plaque for pen and ink drawing.

 My art teacher, Ms Dorothy Clemmons kicked me out of class (which I deserved and is another story all it's own) shortly after I completed the artwork. The plaque award came months later in my senior year 1968.

 Ms Clemmons, principal Mr. Leonard Morris, and I pose for this photo (below). Ms Clemmons never spoke to me again after she put me out of her class, even through this photo session there was silence on her part...which explains my sour expression :-/.
(Publicity photo for the local paper)

 Ms Clemmons was an important influence in my artistic career. She was the first to encouraged me (and other students) to carry a sketchbook. Taking that sound advice has opened up many artistic doors of opportunity and 52 years later, I still carry a sketch book.

 My career at Disney Studios Feature Animation started in 1975 and as consuming as animation can be in all its aspects, I continued to work in pen and ink outside the studio.

 Around 1987 I did a series of pen and ink pieces that generated an interest in others who wanted to own a piece of my work. Not wanting to part with original artwork (at least not yet) I decided to have copies made. The first copies were made by a printer who had no idea of how to present art and neither did I.

 At an art show I overheard a lady complaining about the " paper..." my artwork was printed on.
(Original- 'Woman at Stove) copies printed on cheap paper :-).

 A quest for better paper to print my art on led me to the Josephine Press in Santa Monica, CA and owner John Greco who knows the artistry of reproducing fine art.

John does it the old fashioned way.

 I don't know all the technical stuff, but this is what John told me to do. First - Have my the artwork transferred to a metal plate. So, I dropped the artwork off at a company that did that. A few days later I picked up a metal plate that had the background eaten away with some type of acid solution leaving my ink lines raised and untouched.

(Sing a Song  19 1/2" x 15 1/4" metal plate, detail right)

 Then I deliver the metal plate to Santa Monica where John G puts the metal plate on the press, hand inks the metal plate, lays the inked plate on a piece of top grade paper on and 'hand pulls' the wheel that applies pressure to the paper and a print appears. Each print completely "Unique" as he explained...for only two would be rolled and printed before applying ink again and depending on the pressure and amount of ink each time, no two prints are exactly alike.
(Sing A Song- signed and numbered print)

The edition run- #1 through #50 are signed and numbered.
The Funeral (below) and Profound Emotion (right) are examples of early pen and ink prints.
(Funeral 11" x 30")

(portion of Profound Emotion 25"x 30 1/2" )

 In those days (1980's) I used a quill pen and bottle of ink resulting in a thicker line width and some pen point inconsistency (wearing down of the pen point) and an occasional splatter due to the nature of the pen nib.

 The last decades I have switched to mechanical pens which give a consistent line width and allows me more flexibility.

 Because of the finer line quality, I now have giclee (z-clay) print copies made of my artwork.
Further anatomy to come :- )

until next time...