minor attitude

Abstract expressionist drawing

We were at my place and she seemed a little mopey. She didn’t want to do the things I suggested, seemed bored, and finally said she just didn’t know what to do. I suggested we draw again and she said, “Okay. First I’ll draw, then you can draw.” She picked up a box of colored pencils and did the first picture. Pretty cool. I’d sneaked a peek, and saw her hold all the colored pencils in her hand at the same time and use them for a bit of scribble. I told her it looked pretty cool; was it a leaf or a fish?

“It’s. A. DRAWING, grampop.” Add eye roll. Then she drew the second one. “THIS is a goldfish.”

Drawing of a fish

Okay. You need a smarty response- “It’s not gold…,” I said. The light was bad and I couldn’t see the outline was orange. She picked up the orange pencil again and dashed a scribble inside the body and tail.

“There” Major eye roll. I love the pictures. And the attitude. Though, I can’t imagine all of her teachers would like her attitude too. Only the better ones.

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Dick’s store

Digital recreation of Dick's tiny store.

Dick Nieman’s store was just up the alley from my home in Pottstown. It was a small place, but played a big part in everyone’s lives. It was a time when small grocers existed in every neighborhood, but were starting to feel the loss of revenue from the large markets that opened. A&P, Acme, Weis- they all played a part in crushing out the warmth that came from the smaller shops. In my extended neighborhood there were seven small grocers operating, all making a good living. From Google street view, the spot where Dick's store once sat. Closest were Steven’s and Dick’s. They were a half block apart, both serving the same neighbors. Both had reputations for heart- helping those in tough spots, donating to church and scouts. Steven’s was a bit larger than Dick’s and offered butcher services. Fresh meat. Extensive dairy. Dick’s was all dry goods, with the ice cream and soda treats every kid sought. During the summer, Dick’s front porch was a hang out. We’d come back from the river or a baseball game and gather at Dick’s for sodas, chips, and Tastykakes.

I missed the place. Google maps street view is wonderful for that. I’ve walked to work again in Philadelphia and Boston. I even walk around the farms and villages of England, the streets of Paris and Rome. I can spend hours lost in a sight seeing spree. But when I dropped in to the old neighborhood and walked up to Dick’s, it was gone. Not just closed, but totally gone. Even the beautiful maple that stood beside the store only left a decaying stump. Then from a different direction, Google had updated and the lot included someone’s gardening shed. Other stores were closed, but you could still see them in the apartments and garages that they’d been turned in to. Dick’s, I guess, was spared that indignity; but I really wanted a last look. Really.

I grabbed a screen shot from street view and took it in to Photoshop. I built Dick’s store again, where and how I remembered it. The tree was from some place else but looked just as I remembered it. It’s very satisfying. I didn’t do a fantastic job- every time I look, I see something that needs to be adjusted- the tones of the walls, the angle of corners, shadows that distract. I opened and tweaked the version used here at least three times before I could close it and walk away. Now, though, I know it works; for me, anyway. I can spend more time on different scenes. Maybe I can do the inside of BiRite with that awe inspiring full size Lone Ranger cardboard cut-out on top of the Coke machine. Down by the tube tester. Yeah. I have to find some resources.

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hers, not mine

Collage landscape.

She handed me this beautiful landscape when I dropped her off last evening. Included was a card “to the best Granmpop ever.” She had mentioned the card and picture when she got off the bus.

Surrounded by four snowmen. She didn’t give them to me then but instead handed me this picture of four snowmen. “It’s early morning…see the bright colors? That’s how you can tell. And one snowman is holding a cup of hot coffee. See the steam lines?” Yep I see the steam lines. And she confirmed the one snowman is indeed a pirate, “See? He’s holding a sword.”

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old reflection

An experimental poster with several versions of the same person.

Every now and then when I’m in an ambitious reflective mood I’ll launch an archive of my old work blog and scan through several posts. I guess I still wonder what happened. I know I’ll never figure it out.

I found an old post from 2007 that I used to ask colleagues about false claims of diversity in advertising. I worked in a predominantly white department in a predominantly white university. Photos of people of color were precious commodities- using photoshop, I’d lift the people out and place them in ads or in news photos. A director called getting a photo of a black woman “double dipping.” I had problems with the lie, but at the same time saw some value in trying to create a welcoming atmosphere to encourage people of color to participate.The post had a couple of smart comments, one from the departments CIO. After spinning a brief anecdote, he claimed he was for demonstrations of diversity.

The triteness of the diversity campaigns that I saw online and on campus was an embarrassment. The poster above was a shot at an honest diversity campaign. I had others using the same theme- several of the same women wondering why somebody thought their perfume was too strong. Well, that was the idea anyway. I thought it was honest, clever, and fun, but people didn’t beat a path to my door. I think the model, Mark, had fun.

Several years after my retirement in 2012, I was experimenting with image search. For no reason other than its obscurity I searched on my diversity poster. It came up as having been used in someone else’s blog about a year after I made it. The gentleman’s post called diversity advertising crap, then went on, “The problem, of course, is finding an execution – particularly a visual execution – that isn’t predictable, patronising or already done to death.” He went on to say that he’d found some approaches that weren’t brilliant or entirely rubbish- but with a low puke factor. His first one? Yep, “Try this internal poster from the IT department at Penn State University:”

I sent the guy a note thanking him for something that happened so long ago. He returned a nice note, ending with some good advice: “Don’t spend too much time looking back in your retirement, by the way.”

You’re probably right, Andrew.

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meter cheater, 1973

A newspaper clipping from May of 1973.

A bit silly to go to lengths to avoid paying nickles for parking, I readily admit. There was a challenge, though, and it was well met.

This story was on the evening news then on the front page of the next morning’s paper. I was livid. How dare they! I wanted to storm the newspaper office and demand they tell me how they knew it was seen by a meter maid the first time it was used? I can still feel that same indignation. But, let me explain.

In 1973, my studio was underneath Jack Smith’s barbershop, beside the taxi company on South Hanover Street. I parked on the street and had paid my share of tickets. After I’d received several tickets within moments of my arrival curb side with a hand full of nickels, I noticed the flatness of the meter face. The simple graphic nature of the workings. Before I really thought about it, I’d created a little halfmoon duplicate using matboard and opaque watercolors. I thought it looked pretty good, so I put double-face tape on the back and vowed to use it the next day.

The next morning I parked my bug-eye Sprite and climbed out. I walked over to the meter and standing in front of it to shield a view from the street, I slipped the card in place. It looked okay. When I went out later in the day, there was no ticket. I left it in place and went out after 5pm. Still, no ticket. I felt very light. I reached up and popped the graphic into my palm, got in my car, and drove away. It gave me a good chuckle when I thought about it, but I shared it with no one.

I used that cardboard face for six or seven weeks, but never on rainy days. No tickets. I was pretty smug. I didn’t even mind dropping coins in on rainy days. Mostly, I took it for granted. Then one afternoon it was gone. I looked around briefly in case it fell off, but I couldn’t see it. I was fortunate that I didn’t have a ticket that afternoon- though I had a few the next couple of weeks. One evening, a bit over two weeks since I lost the cardboard halfmoon, it was on the news. The commentators had a good chuckle. Then the next morning, these pictures were on the front page of The Pottstown Mercury

Meter Cheater Gimmick Fails First Test What? My cardboard meter face? Carol Hahn barely had to look twice to notice something was wrong I beg your pardon, but…It was found pasted over the face of a meter on the South Hanover Street lot and then Police didn’t contact the owner of the car that was parked at the cheating meter because they have no proof that he or she was the one who tampered with it.

Or they were the one to steal it from that poor artist who never used the lot, always parked on the street and used tape, darn it. TAPE. Not glue. How could they?

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granddaughter’s pics

Snowy landscape with evergreens.
Sweeping dark brush strokes.

Too much time’s been spent on my work and not enough on the littleone’s. She continues to paint and draw. When she visited yesterday, she asked to paint, then told me not to watch. Watching is always a big part of my joy with her work, but I gave her her privacy. After a bit she brought me the landscape.

“This is a forest,” she said. “This is a river, I used mostly water and we’re in the river. This is the sky. You have to let it dry a bit. These are trees- they’re like Bob Ross’.” She’d mixed green and black for her evergreen color. Pretty nice.

While we ate, we watched The Magic School Bus Returns. She said a certain cloud formation could lead to a tornado. “You know what a tornado looks like? Here, I’ll paint you one.” Since the paints were still out in the other room, she got up and went to paint for a few minutes. When she came back, she handed me the picture and said, “It looks like this.

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surprising glance

Me looking back from age eleven.

I can now say that facebook has made a positive contribution to my life. I belong to an fb group of generally older people who grew up in my hometown – Pottstown – and use the group to reminisce. I made a post about where I was on November 22, 1963, (John Boyd’s sixth grade class) and quite a few folks joined in with their memories. A few days later I got a message from someone I didn’t know. When I looked at the message, she identified herself with her maiden name (strange concept that) and said her brother was in that class and the family lived behind us, across the alley, in my old neighborhood. She was right. I recognized her and her brother; then she sent a photo of a photo from her brother’s birthday party in March of 1964. She thought one person was me. Well, kind of, I thought, and I thanked her.

Then I opened the image in Photoshop, corrected some distortion and cropped it to just me. There I was. Unmistakable. It’s completely unposed. My school pictures seemed to stop with fifth grade and no one in my family took family pictures. This is the first I can remember seeing me at that age. And I’m looking straight at me.

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this just seemed to follow

Colorized version of a redrawn frog.

I had everything out. Might as well play.

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retouched

A friend picked up the calling card for two young soldiers in Lewistown. He scanned it and asked if I could clean it up. That much was pretty standard digital clean-up, though there were an abundance of JPEG fragments. It must have been a quick print and paste job. These cards were so popular in the 1860s, taxing them in the mail helped to finance the war effort. The quick turn around for this card is pretty obvious in the poor photo and the sloppy cut and paste of the finished card. The finished size was about 2.5″ x 4.25″- not a very large surface.

After finishing the retouching I wanted, for my own learning and amusement, to colorize the thing. I think these guys would have opted for the four color package if it had been available.

Old photo that's had artificial coloring applied.
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another sketch

The mice, emerging from the Millheim Transit Tunnel.

This was actually done long before the frog I just posted. I like this style, it’s easier to execute, and has me rethinking the whole project. I may depend more on words and dialog than I’d originally planned, just inseting drawings in the text..

The mice in a dark tunnel.Seven years ago I posted these guys in the tunnels. Long trip I guess. Mostly spent in my head. The pictures are keeping me from finishing the story, and I’m not sure if that’s the path I want. I’m not even liking the color images anymore. A little too, I don’t know. A little stiff? Not as well executed as I’d hoped? More later…

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