roz chast is always amazing

It’s very strange to note that I have been keeping this blog for more than two years and have never mentioned one of my favorite cartoonists: Roz Chast.  The cover of this week’s  New Yorker gives me a good excuse for correcting that massive oversight.  Here is Roz Chast’s “Venus on the Beach”:CV1_TNY_08_04_14Chast.inddThis drawing is a good example of many of the things I admire about Chast’s work: her composition, her linework, her use of color (she also makes wonderful effects in greyscale tones), her figure drawing, particularly her women and and girls, her keen social and cultural observations, and her dry wit.  She is interested in words, particularly written words, but she also excels, as she does here, in worldless cartoons that depend on the reader to fill in the background with his or her own knowledge.

And of course, as an avid phone camera user, it just plain cracks me up.  Because you know that if Botticelli’s Venus washes up on an American beach in her half shell, there are going to be a dozen phone cam shots up on the Internet in about 2 minutes.

Read a bit more about the cover and look at a slideshow of great Roz Chast summer cartoons here.

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  • Remember that time
  • we went to the “Khyber Pass”
  • and I found a whole lamb chop
  • in the lamb curry?

(Down among the neck bones … writing this was my major accomplishment of the day, superseding even cleaning out the refrigerator.  Which I also did.)

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placemat camog

A camog, of course, is a cross between a dog and a camel.  (My husband thought up the word , and, hey, it’s better than “damel”.)placematcamogI drew this camog on the back of yet another Steak and Shake placemat at yet another Steak and Shake, this one over in South Bend.  (You’re lucky you got this at all, since when we turned a corner after dinner we passed a Sonic, and if you think I am going to eat at that Steak and Shake again now that I know there is a Sonic in the next block you are out of your mind.  Because, Sonic.  I am not going to drive all the way to South Bend to eat at one, but if I am there anyway I am going to have tater tots and a cherry limeade.  And a breakfast sandwich. Breakfast all day, at Sonic.  You know, what this town needs is a Sonic.  And a Trader Joe’s.  But I digress.)

The camog was drawn, as all the best placemat drawings are, as a pure automatic drawing rising from a few random “warm up” lines.  Any animal I draw without planning has a tendency to come out looking like a dog, and any unplanned drawing tends to expand to make best use of the page as a whole.  This is why I do almost all my work on an 8 1/2 x 11 or smaller page– so anything I draw will fit on the scanner to be digitized and further messed around with.

Restaurants help us out, all us artists who have only a small flatbed scanner. Why not include an 8 1/2 x 11 “safe area” in your placemat designs?  No one’s asking you to print an actual border on the back– we know as well as anyone that getting something printed on both sides is way more expensive than a single sided job.  But if you included a border or something in the art that shows through the thin paper, you would make it easier for us to constrain our placemat drawings so they fit safely on the scanner.

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the small camera

You know my big camera, the Kaspian Monster, and of course the new phone camera is a blogging workhorse, but I don’t think you’ve ever met my small camera.  So here’s an “around the studio in available light with the big camera” shot of my Fuji X-10, a classic super point and shoot with an excellent fast lens, a one-step bigger sensor, and a sturdy metal body.  It’s obsolete now, since cameras with much bigger sensors have taken over that market. So I got it for a song on Ebay, and  it still makes a nice image.  You can tell I like it, since I have been buying it presents: a molded plastic grip to make it easier to hold, and a cool braided paracord wrist strap from DSPTCH.  I’ve been experimenting with it for a while, and took it on a bit of an expedition today to really shake it down.  fujix10-2-blog(For photography nerds and geeks, yes, it’s a low light/high ISO wonder, the kind that still amazes me even after shooting digital for almost a year.  Pentax K-30, Pentax FA 50mm f/1.4.  1/80, f/2.8, Ex +0.3, ISO 12800,  sheesh, how do they even do that?)

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a series of tubes

Remember how Senator Ted Stevens once famously told us that “the Internet is a series of tubes”?  (If you don’t, read about it here.)  This is apparently an analogy with staying power, since I was instantly reminded of it when I saw these concrete pipes on our street, waiting to become part of our new storm sewers.  So, right here on the Internet, please have a series of tubes:seriesoftubes-supersaturated-blogseriesoftubes-blackandwhite-blogseriesoftubes-colorposterized-blogseriesoftubes-magentaandpurple-blogseriesoftubes-blackandwhiteposterized-blogFrom the top: superstatured color, black and white, posterized color, color beat on with the Hue slider like it was a hammer, posterized black and white.  (That’s a lot of tubes, and definitely a series.)

(taken with the Nexus 5 running Nexus Camera, edited in Android KitKat Gallery)

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best of the drawing of the day, week 117– spokesphinx

drawingoftheday-week118-spokesphinxStarted out drawing a Knotted Rope sphinx (search the blog for “sphinx” to find out more about them).  I wanted to put something in his hand and it turned out to be a coffee mug.  The pose evolved and there needed to be something under his arm for him to lean on, and I ended up making it a 10 pound can of ground coffee to match the mug.  There needed to be a logo on the can, and for some reason I drew a large question mark in a Roman font.  No reason to have something different on the mug, so there went the question mark again.  Hey, it’s an ad for coffee!  Inspired, I finished his tail in the shape of the question mark, shaded him accordingly, added the word “coffee” to the can in two languages, and composed an appropriate slogan.  And so Question Mark Coffee’s new ad campaign was born.

Questions abound:

  • Who is this sphinx guy, anyway?  Is he some kind of a celebrity?  I sure don’t recognize him.
  • That’s kind of a weird pose for a sphinx.  Is he comfortable at all?
  • Is the coffee actually any good?
  • Does coffee even come in ten pound cans any more?  Is this some kind of food service grade bulk sales brand?  (see question above)
  • That’s a not the best slogan I have ever seen.  Should the cartoonist be glad she is not looking for work as an advertising copywriter?
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car spotting– a little bit of ’56

Across the street from the drugstore, one day last week, I saw a nifty little ’56 Chevy.  A very little ’56 Chevy– “Chopster” is seriously shortened, a whole door shorter than the standard wheelbase Chevy wagon it must once have been.  I don’t normally approve of severe customizations, preferring to let old cars be old cars, but this little guy is so darn cute it’s hard to be overly strict.  Let’s just assume that its creator started out with two junked cars with the damage on opposite ends, and just let Chopster be Chopster.  I’m not sure how I feel about the flames on the hood, but the rest of that red and black paintjob is just dynamite.  Here’s three “vintage” shots taken with my imaginary twin lens reflex, and something a bit more modern.


Keen observers may notice a certain familiar roadster in the background.  A handy chase car for spotting expeditions, that.

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a visit to the apple store

Sitting here behind the wheel of Stinky, the old Lenovo ThinkPad, and feeling mightily content, since I’ve saved myself a thousand bucks or so, at least temporarily.  Have been enjoying a brief flirtation with the idea of a Mac laptop from our friends at Apple– a lightweight beauty with a gorgeous Retina display that would be great for working with photographs, a job Stinky would be really bad at.  These photos, taken at the Apple Store with my Nexus 5 Android camera in a petty act of defiance, explain it all.  It’s very pretty laptop, and it seems very easy to use, with most of the software I would want already preloaded, but I still really like to remove text going both directions.  It’s a writing thing.  I still kinda want a Mac, but not as much as I did before.IMG_20140719_113222IMG_20140722_141339Note: I did get into a bit of a discussion with the Apple Store Guy about this, but he blithely informed me that most writers only use delete (which is actually backspace), but if I prefer to use a “full keyboard” (in the same tone of voice he might use to suggest I that I might prefer to saddle up a mule and ride to the Apple Store) I could always attach one.  Funny, but my current laptop, which is a 12 inch model, has both delete and backspace without adding any peripherals.  Looks like there is plenty of room on that deck for a few more keys to me.  That’s a pretty wide bezel.

(I will say that the giant touch pad is excellent.  But I would miss my little red “eraserhead”.)

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tumblr sunday on monday: picture and caption

a fair acrobatI like this picture.  I like the caption. (It’s a complete sentence!)  I like the typesetting and the figure drawing and the linework and the expression on the fact of the lady in the striped dress at the far right.  I like the Fair Acrobat’s “revealing” outfit and the guy with the beard, and I wonder if he’s the father being defended.   I like the fact that the band is playing on through the uproar, including the tuba.  I like that fact that the Victorians thought ladies of substance were hot, and that a guy who makes himself objectionable should get what’s coming to him. I like the fringes of Victorian respectability and the interesting things that are always going on around the edges.

And I like tumblr for bringing a bunch of cool stuff, including digitized Victoriana, within reach. And I like the story that is going on in the background waiting to be told.

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drawing of the day bonus: what m. hebert found on the beach

To finish off our Best of the Drawing of the Day Weekend, here’s a bonus drawing of the day.  We haven’t done one of these in a while, so a brief explanation may be in order.  I began the drawing of the day project on January 1st, 2009.  It started out as a simple New Year’s Resolution: I was going to improve my drawing skills and impose a little discipline on myself by making a finished drawing, in ink, every single day for a year.  Frankly, I would have considered the project a success if I finished the first sketchbook.  No one was more surprised than I was when I drew my last line on New Year’s Eve, 12 months later, and hadn’t missed a day.  And then I kept going.  The project is now more then halfway through its sixth year.

Then in 2o12 I started this blog, and one of the few features I had planned for it was that every week I would post the best of that week’s drawing of the day. Anyone who is reasonably good at math will note that that means there are at least three years worth of sketchbooks that have never been opened to the Internet in this forum. Turn with me now to sketchbook 2 and the drawing of the day for March 15th, 2009, to discover what M. Hebert found on the beach.drawingofthedaybonus-031509-mhebertThis is, of course, one of the now familiar unplanned, semi-automatic drawings made with the brush pen.  These are often the weirdest things in the sketchbook, since they evolve from a single line and also because my mind is a very weird place. It is the first “lucky drawing” that I felt was a complete success.

I don’t remember much about drawing this, but I do remember thinking up the caption at about the same time I was inking the stump, which went in at the last minute because I thought the figure needed something to lean against.  Normally, I would draw a rock in those circumstances, but I guess I was thinking of the burn hunks of driftwood you sometimes see on our own grassy Duneland beaches.  Nowadays I have more confidence in my brush pen lettering and would have lettered the caption with the same tool I used for the rest of the piece, as it was I used a smaller and more controllable brush marker.

Is the man M. Hebert, who has found a Horrible Creature on the beach?  Or is M. Hebert a Mysterious Animal who has found a strange bipedal being?  Or is M. Hebert in the position of the viewer, coming out of the water to find a pair of unlikely allies or conspirators deep in a conversation they don’t want interrupted?

What I do know is that if I ever collect my drawing of the day project into a single volume, “What M. Hebert Found on the Beach” and other drawings  is a strong contender for its title.

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