(I don’t know whether these are pages from a notebook or part of a letter. But since the person in question wrote endless letters to a certain other person and those letters constitute a very vividly detailed journal, the difference is technical at best.)
Regardless of form, nothing is more important (maybe even crucial) to a writer or artist than the notebook, sketchbook or journal. Nothing is more personal, either. So nothing is more interesting to a creative curiosity than someone else’s notes. And some of them transcend any given definition of the word interesting, enough that looking at them is like looking at the Milky Way. Like looking into the sun.
This paper belonged to Vincent Van Gogh, and he wrote and drew in it as he wrote a letter, almost certainly to his brother Theo, sometime during his stay in the city of Arles. We know this because on the upper part of the left hand page is a sketch for one of the greatest paintings in the world: “The Bedroom”, sometimes known as “The Bedroom in Arles”. Think about that. A sketch for my favorite painting. In what looks like a very soft black pencil, on graph paper. Van Gogh kept his notes on graph paper. I know people who do that.
That’s clearly the famous bedroom, and it was probably drawn in the room itself, in the presence of the two rush bottomed chairs and the window and the green floor and the pictures on the wall.
Now one of the paintings he made of that room is hanging in the Art Institute, and this sketch is on the internet. Keep track of your notebooks and sketchbooks, everyone.
Because it’s Auto Show Week, because we love cars and we love images and we love art and we love history and we love trivia, here is a gorgeous artistic image of cars that is also a clever infographic. Yep, that’s the design history of the Volkswagen Golf, in silhouette. (For our readers in the US, yes, that’s a VW Rabbit at the top. The first generation Golf was marketed as the Rabbit in the States. I’m not sure why, though it probably has to do with a European perception of the US market as being less “sophisticated”.) Whatever you call them, all Golfs share the same basic design and represent the tried and true essence of the basic Eurohatch*. Many other vehicles share a design philosophy over time in similar ways, and learning about and being able to recognize these design “families” is one of the core skills of successful car spotting.
The work of the artist at the SilhouetteHistory website, silhouettehistory.com shows how elegant an understanding of this part of automotive history. If the Golf is too mundane for you, visit the site to see similar histories of the Ford Mustang, the Nissan Z car, the Volvo sedan, and many other marques and models.
*Every year I go to the Auto Show and every year the base model Golf comes up near or at the top of my list of cars I saw that I’d genuinely like to own and drive. It always has a solid feel and excellent visibility all the way around, and I am always able to get the seat, wheel and mirrors adjusted to take a positive driving position. The controls are simple and arranged in a logical way. A base Golf is a nice size, not too expensive (within the range of new car prices, which are of course totally ghastly), safe, and reasonably economical to run. Anyone who would like to give me a new Golf (I would like a white or a dark blue one), or a well maintained, good running used one in any color (an old one with roll up windows and manual locks and such would be awesome!) , is welcome to contact me. In return I will review it for the blog and write about it regularly.
For writers who came up before the digital revolution, and many who were born later, nothing ever will replace the little paper notebook. Nothing to charge up, nothing to turn on, no lights, no sound, nothing to distract or alarm, just the pen and the paper and that comforting little presence in your pocket. But the smartphone, with its camera, can sometimes be another kind of notebook.
This photograph replaces a written note that would have gone something like this:
“on the brown cardboard box under a display of Ray-O-Vac plastic lantern flashlights (bright yellow and process blue), these words, off center in a blurry sans-serif font: Lanterna Flotante. prob. Spanish for “Floating Lantern”. Very pretty, sounds like words from bossa nova lyric. Flashlights are a good price too– $3.97. Didn’t buy one. White peg board shelf.”
The picture covers all of that, including the price which got cropped out for artistic reasons. But it is there in the original image. So while a thousand may be a bit of an exaggeration, a picture is certainly worth 57 words. And “Lanterna Flotante” is a very pretty phrase, which is the point of the whole exercise. Sounds like part of the lyrics from an particularly elegant bossa nova.
Photographers who always strive to “get it right in the camera” tend to forget that sometimes the soul of an image is only found when you crop it out of the surrounding mess. I took the digital cropping knife to one of the Polaroid Cube images I took in the lighting department at Menards, in the same session that resulted in yesterday’s “successful” photographs. I had this one in the semi-failure pile. I liked the yellows and the different dark shapes and the circular element at the upper right, but not the all the blue at the bottom and the tags and extra junk. So I cut once, and made it better. But this is a chicken-droppings crop. Too hesitant, too shy, too afraid of losing any of the edges. There is still a lot of junk in it, particularly to the left and in the lower center. I liked this crop when I first made it, but that only lasted a few minutes. Once you’ve broken the ice with the first cut, it’s easier to go on than you might think. This is better. Half blue and half yellow, with that wooden halo reemphasized in the upper right. I won’t say that cropping made this image into some kind of work of genius, but it moved it into the “successful” pile. I cropped for its soul, and I think I found it.
Specifically, the lighting department at Menards, where I was looking for something different to do with my Polaroid Cube toy camera on another dull, damp, cold winter day. To say I was surprised by what I found when I downloaded the files would be an understatement. But this camera is always full of surprises, and sometimes they are good ones. So let there be lighting. Everybody knows Menards has the biggest lighting department in town. And while the Easter candy has not yet arrived, I am happy to report that, with the dismantling of the Holiday Wonderland, the ever popular “Display of Comfy Chairs and Couches with Good Cellphone Reception” has reopened.
More images behind the cut … Continue reading
Yet another in the sporadic but definitely ongoing series “Pretty Good Dragons”, we have Albus, of the breed sometimes known as the Snowbird*. Yes, this is the same drawing you can see in the photograph of the disgraceful mess on top of my disgraceful coffee table that I posted yesterday. It looks at least a little better with the pencil lines taken out and one small correction made in whiteout. Well, it looks more finished anyway.
It’s pretty obvious that I didn’t write the caption until I was deep in the inking stage. This is unusual, since I usually have the idea for the text fairly early in the drawing process. That means I can tighten up the writing and lay out the words before I start to ink, and all the crossouts and insertions will magically disappear in the same way as the pencil lines for the art. This is not the case here. For those who can’t read my squeezed up scribbles, which are a combination of proper lettering and my personal notehand, here is a legible version:
I know he looks like some kind of bird, but he’s a dragon, really. The red ones are Firebirds, so you can call ALBUS here a SNOWBIRD, I guess. (The real names are in Chinese.)
*I know it is probably not technically possible to have an earworm for almost three months, but I swear that Anne Murray tune has been stuck in my head since I wrote this post last November. It’s possible that’s where the idea for this drawing came from.
I went out to take some photographs this afternoon*, and parked the Pentax** on the coffee table while I put on my shoes. And then I realized I had set up a little still life that says a lot about the inside of my brain. Call it “Welcome to My World”.
Yesterday’s drawing of the day, a script I’m editing, other people’s comics, and lots and lots of paper: paper to read, paper to write on, paper to draw on, and, sitting on top of all the paper, the second best of distractions. The first, of course, is the dogs, who are not shown.
*I have to get this new lens at least a little figured out if I am going to take it to the Auto Show next week!
**For photo geeks, that’s the Pentax K5IIs (“Kilo”) with the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 Art.
In a previous post, I showed you the pencils from the title page/mock cover of my new story “Theme Song”, and I thought you might want to see the finished inks.
The concept is that this is the cover for the sheet music to the theme song of the Foursquare Adventures cartoon series, which exists only in the imaginations of the imaginary characters in Kekionga. As Iowa says in the bottom left panel of page 6:
If all goes well, “Theme Song” will appear in the next volume of OH Comics!, coming in April.
Q) How can you tell when a sasquatch has been driving your car?
A) The seat is pushed all the way back and the rear view mirrors are pointed more or less straight up.
Q) How do you know it was a sasquatch and not a yeti?
A) Because the heat was turned up all the way, too. A yeti wouldn’t need the heater.
Today at the Chinese buffet, we were offered a pink dessert. It was very, very pink, and had small black seeds in it. I had the baked custard/ flan thing seen at the right. That’s a dessert I understand.