20 April 2015

[art] What We Saw At The Linework NW, This Year

I must say, in the short time it's been extant, Linework NW has made strides in seven-league boots.

Last year was its first. Reviewing what I wrote then, It's plain we had fun. You certainly couldn't beat the price. And it was a charge being able to enter the Norse Hall, over by NE 11th and Couch.

Last year was such a success, they did it again. And they did it better. This rocket, my friends, is taking off. Whereas last year they made do with the big room downstairs and had the palmful of panels in the bar over a single day's proceedings, this year, it was two days worth of niftiness, more panels, and more space (the panels moved up to what was called the "Lodge Room"). And, instead of just one day, it was two.

About the only thing that suffers is the air circulation in that place. Not that it checked the velocity of the feeling in there one little tiny bit. At Linework NW, the air was also filled with this palpable electric charge … the community feeling, the creativity was almost so solid you could pluck it out of the air. And this was late on the second day.

We came in later on that second day. And it was so busy that I found myself regretting missing the first (if for no other reason than we missed one of the big-time guests … none other than Daniel Clowes (talk about punching above your weight. This is only the second iteration of Linework NW)). But the cosmos seems to be paying attention, and rewarded us handsomely for just showing up.

To wit:

We sat in on one panel. Hazel Newlevant, Taneka Stotts, Tristan Tarwater, Lucy Bellwood and Kory Bing led a witty, knowledgeable talk about crowdfunding, touching on Kickstarter, Patreon, execution, what to expect, and how to expect the unexpected … no matter where I go personally with my art from here, I didn't necessarily see a crowdfunding step in the mix, but I have a good idea now why I might do it, and may at some point take it on.

A creator I muchly admire sat in on the talk; none other than Barry Deutsch, long time proprietor of Alas, A Blog, and creator of one of the winningest heroes I've ever run across, Mirka, whose adventures are chronicled in Hereville (of which I've exulted before), a brave graphic novel series about a brave young woman who takes on adversaries that none of us could frankly handle. I got to meet Barry, well, actually, my wife roped me in (gladly!) not knowing I'd heard of Alas, which was a moment of married-person comedy. Barry's a truly nice guy.

You don't get away from one of these without scoring something memorable, and since the event is still free, that's free as in Beer (top that, ComiCons) there's that much more money to spend for the tightly-budgeted on a goodie or an experience. For me, that came from the fertile mind of Lisa Congdon, who was a very nice person and sold me one of her books … one with danged useful info in it … Art, Inc …

And then she did me an extra blessing, and signed it.

She chatted me up for a couple of moments. Not only did I listen to what she said, I listened to what I said back to her. I've always believed in paying attention to myself as well as others, because sometimes I find the most wonderful things. And this time, I found something. I need to unpack it, so I won't go on about it right here, at least not yet. I will. May be next week, may be next year. But I will expound. Eventually we all like sharing our epiphanies, and I'm no different from that.

The Wife™ had herself a sort-of-a-cosmic experience. She decided to plump for the delightful book D.I.Y. Magic, by Anthony Alvarado, who's also a thoroughly delightful person, as we found out because he, was, of course, there. There was a little bit of human humor over the fact that, at first, she didn't realize the guy behind the table was the author; she wondered aloud that it was possible for us to get the book signed and he acknowledged that it was; to the question in the air, I opined  that The answer is yes. 

Well, as it happened, he'd made a habit that day of writing a bit of what he'd heard snatched from the air as appropriate … and there it was, inscribed just south of the title and just north of his byline, on the title page … THE ANSWER IS YES.

Which is appropriate, in an existential way. When it comes to Linework NW, for us, the answer will always be yes. 

11 April 2015

[Address_Nerd] In Passing: Two Interesting Salem Street Names

While I've not called Salem home for many a year (and at this point feel myself more of a Portlander than I've ever been of anywhere else), I'd be lying to myself if I said I didn't still feel somewhat at home there.

You can take the boy out of Marion County (or he can), but you really can't take Marion County out of the boy. The strawberry patch has set its stamp upon me, aye.

Since I don't get back to Salem as often as I ought, Google Street View is my friend betimes. And since the street level photography has gotten so damn good over the last few years, I indulge my urge to see what the street names and blades look like and how they have changed over time. There are two interesting bits of nomenclature that have stuck with me. I delved and found, and I'd like to share them now.

1. The Cutoff at the end of 12th Street.

12th Street, SE, is a major access backbone to the area of southeast Salem east of Commerical Street but west of the Salem Airport. For over 2 and a half miles south of State Street it distributes traffic and commerce to those inner south-east side neighborhood areas, climbing the hill south of Vista Avenue, and then swerving southwestward to merge with Commercial Street at about the 3800 block, just north of where Sunnyside Road SE peels off.

What is easily missed, though, is that the road stops being 12th Street SE at that point. There is a 12th Street SE south of this point … but it lines up with the main stem of 12th and goes from Duffield Heights St SE south to Hilfiker Lane SE, in the small neighborhood just east of Commerical, south of the 12th St light. That diagonal section connecting 12th at Oakhill Avenue SE to the big traffic signal plenum at Commerical Street is actually known as …

12th STREET CUT-OFF SE. A real mouthful of a name. But it lends itself to, perhaps, the most intriguing looking street blades Salem can boast. The above blade blends the signage for Ibsen St SE and 12th Street Cut-off due to the interesting angle of the intersection, and the extension across the main road that allows southbound 12th Street traffic to access Commercial Street northbound … a dendritic ramp affair that also connects to Promotory Place SE.

Another interesting thing is that the signage is not consistent. There are two other cross streets to 12th Street Cut-off, Doris Ave SE and Oakhill Ave SE, and both the signs shift the "ST" generic to above the block index, leaving the "CUT OFF" kind of dangling there.

The street name is most prosaic, as the cut-off does provide a shortcut to Commercial Street. Giving it a variant name also prevents a duplicated street name, as the southern third of 12th Street Cut-Off is somewhat parallel to the southernmost extensions of 12th Street SE, just a few blocks to the east.

2. The One And Only Link You Need.

The other interesting blade happens in West Salem. I lived near this place for a very short time. There is a street that links Kingwood Dr NW and the place where Hillcrest Dr NW and Riverview Dr NW come together. This is a very short street, on the order of only about 180 feet in length, and in honor of its functional position of being very near three streets but not actually being part of any of them, it's simply (and also prosaically) called …


The "ST" generic seems to be a later addition; when I lived in that neighborhood, maps and the street sign simply called it The Link, NW. Latterly, I've noticed, post offices and city planners abhor a vacuum in the generic spot (Witness here in Portland where SE Reedway (a per se street name sans generic) is increasingly posted as SE Reedway St, a misnomer. So, the awkwardish The Link Street NW it is for them. I'll always see it a little different.

At least the word THE has been retained, giving a memorable presentation. 

09 April 2015

[map] A 1955 Portland Map Reproduction You Can Afford … At Powell's Books

As time goes on, one has a hard and harder time finding old maps of Portland. Either you've seen them before or they're just too expensive.

Powell's City of Books to the rescue. In a bin just to the right of the elevator doors in the Red Room, for less than five dollars a pop, you can find this:

It's the map on the right, of course. It's a "Map Wrap" from Nu-Vue Studio, a Minnesota company that does a rather admirable range of them. On 60# Text, it's good for wrapping things … or makes a nifty poster.

The detail is honest and pure and lovely to look at. Particularly delightful is the incomplete Banfield Expressway … the entry to which at the time was at what we now call the 43rd Avenue offramp. The future still lay ahead.

Remember, what we today call US Highways they then called Interstate highways. They were the interstate highways.

And that was the way it was in 1955.

Red Room. Powell's City of Books. Less than $5.

You can't go wrong.

[logo, art] Seb Lester Don't Need No Digital Design Program

As anyone who spends time with a pen knows, it can do anything. Just takes practice, and effort.

As pointed at by this article at Sploid,  Seb Lester is the sort of pen artist many of us should like to become. Him and his ink can create visually-perfect versions of logos without resorting to one digital tool.

Now, don't get me wrong here … I love digital tools. Photoshop is one of the greatest things to come from the mind of man and woman; I'm in sloppy love with Illustrator, and have had successful and fun interactions with GIMP and Inkscape. I'd never want to completely do without computers. But ink and pen is the sine qua non of design, that without which we wouldn't have what we have. And just like pen and paper arithmetic is good to know, pen and ink design is a fundamental. You just don't get the physical feedback with computer design … there's a reason, I think, that when every digital designer I know of has the chance, they get a tablet and a digital pen. And it's no accident that computers have evolved toward a pen-and-tablet form factor.

You can get a lot done on a keyboard. The most human interface looks like what we've been using for, literally, thousands of years.

This video is about three minutes time-lapsed worth of Mr. Lester doing his astounding best. There's more links to more awesomeness at the Sploid article linked previous.

[liff] Nerdmasté … A Salutation For All My Nerd And Geek Friends

Whatever else we feel about the nerd in society … most of my true friends are. I would not have this any other way. I love my tribe.

07 April 2015

[art] Doing A Small Mucha Thing

It took me a shockingly long time to decipher, for myself, that I love the poster art of Alphonse Mucha. I come to certain realizations rather late. I've recognized that this is my way and I've made a sort of peace with it; I'm not down with it, no, but it is what it is. We ship the information and move ahead.

Once I realized that this was one of my visual loves I've read about as much as I possibly could. I've assimilated the central legend of the man, how a chance meeting with Sarah Barnhardt would catapult the man to the sort of overnight success that you so frequently hear about, that artist who worked patiently on his art until the lightning bolt struck and when it did, he so happened to be ready to catch it.

His posters are, of course, justifiably gorgeous and give the eye back all the love it offers. Gismonda is memorable, La Samaritaine gorgeously intriguing. One wonders what sort of career La Barnhardt would have inscribed with today's supernovaesque media behind her. For my emotional money, though, the girl in the Cycles Perfecta ad has my heart, the way she beckons with her eyes and her open expression from the page.

In the book I checked out from the Multnomah County Library, I found a photo of the rough sketch for Cycles Perfecta and, reduced to its opening pencil marks, it looked like something I could do … or at least, something I should attempt. I haven't drawn anything for a very long time.

It was worth a try.

Cycle girl courtesy Mucha and Multnomah County Library. GraphiteCourtesy Cretacolor; Bristol ATCs courtesy Strathmore; Ink courtesy
Stabilo (and Copic (not shown)); all courtesy my hard-earned bux.

When you neglect your artistic jones for a long long time, you enter a sort of strange stasis. You start to feel as though you're keeping it in a box for just the right time. Then you open it and it feels awkward, stiff, but you use it anyway, because you've told yourself you've been away too long, and some people you love, who know you're shorting yourself until you do this thing, have never, oddly, given up on you even though you have, in a way given up on yourself.

So, the drawing itself feels stiff and awkward. It's quite rewarding, actually, even though you don't get it done the way you want to get it done. Of course, it'll be work. You knew this already. Same thing as happens with someone whose let themselves get out of physical shape after being in great condition. You're lugging this weight.

So, false-start here, bad line there. No matter. Do it anyway. And the result isn't great, but what did you expect? Mucha worked for years and did it every day. the result, seen below, does not satisfy me, but … but … I am happy for it. I did this thing. And the eyes are too wide and crabby; the curve of the face, comically-tragically asymmetrical. The mouth doesn't look anything like the mouth of the original.

She looks like a rank beginner, which is what I'm back to being. I have only myself to blame. You use it or you lose it; but if I didn't have it to begin with at some time or another, it wouldn't have got me this far.

Ahh, Square One. So we meet again.

And so it goes. 

06 April 2015

[Out122ndWay] The Sign At Powell Villa

Out 122nd Way we do kind of fancy that we safekeep the pre-Portlandia Portland (not that I dislike them or anything like that, but they do get a bit smug about reinventing the city). And two of those things are pre-sign code signs. There's one on NE 122nd Avenue in front of the legendary Ron Tonkin dealership. And there's this one.

Powell Villa is a shopping center from back in the day that's still operating. Of course, the anchor grocery store, whatever it was, hove out some years back; there's an Oregon Department of Human Services office filling that space. There's a few small business in an outbuilding on the NW corner of the property. Our favorite Ace Hardware store is there (Love Powell Villa Ace, and they love us back). There's a billiards hall. There's a Baskin Robbins. There's a 7-Eleven (one of the new ones). And there's this sign.

Standing tall and holding court over the landscape just south of SE Powell Blvd on SE 122nd, it seems to defy time. It's very well-kept … the neon isn't often out, and when it is, it's not out for long. It's charming and friendly and reminds one of the time when east county was still east county.

Squint a bit, and you can almost fantasize about the less-gentrified time that it was attached to. Most of the business around this intersection seem a bit careworn by todays bright'n'shiny standards … there's a dive bar or two, a clearance shop that still selling VHS tapes (a dollar a toss) and a veterans thrift store that looks like it was upthrust about the same time as the Boring Volcanics erupted (it even has the big U sign that tells firefighters don't go in here if it's burning.

I dread, as most of us out here might, I imagine, that the hounds of gentrification and condo-bunker building might eventually come out that way. Until they do, it's a nice area full of good people who are doing what they can to get by. And doing fine by that, thank you.

And we even have a pole star to guide us.

[Liff In OR] Where some Oregonians come from

Spotted in passing a few weeks back, a refreshing take on the now-tired (and a little oversharing) practice of iconically displaying one's family unit on the rear window:

Hadn't though of this one. Nicely done. A Californian marries a Texan and moves her to create two little Oregonians.

No matter what you think of Californians and Texans, you have to salute the good taste they had to come here just to do that. My hat's off to you, whoever you are.

[PDX, Type] At Muse Art & Design, Hand-drawn Type Rules The Register

Another visit to +Muse Art and Design, another few art supplies to satiate the jones for such things. Great visit with Peter and Vaughn, of course.

It was a busy day there. We got there on Sunday just before a sort of an afternoon rush, and I couldn't help but notice there almost everyone there was smiling and happy. I guess Muse has the same effect on just about everyone. It's just that way.

Something that made me happy is a hand-designed ad posted on the pillar near the register:

It's gone up during the last couple of months, and the Spring Sale verbiage is not by the original artist, who I understand is a newish employee there. But that's great design there … I love the classy art-deco-ness of it all

And there is a Spring Sale at Muse. You might want to check this out. Something else worth the checking out of is the other side of that column, which is all original artist…

Whether or not the idea of sugar-alcohol-based low-VOC spray paint is your deal, looking at this lovely hand drawn, highly-artistic type should be. 

27 March 2015

[comic] What We're Liking: Modest Medusa

This one is for all the mistfits out there, or anyone who loves one. I qualify two ways there, so I'm smitten, and it's not a modest thing.

It is a Modest thing, though, and as far as that goes, meet Modest:

Just your normal 5-year-old girl, really. Loves Pokemons, Nintendo, and is a confirmed Chocodile addict. She loves manga and when she finally goes to school, is bewildered at the lack of magical girls there.  She's apprehensive about the world around her, but takes it on because, when you're five years old, what else are you going to do? She's got a mother and a father from different worlds (Dad's a vampire, Mom's a giant snake), and she finds herself in an incidental family somewhere in a place that vaguely resembles southeast Portland.

She's also a medusa. Which explains the snakey hair.

The strip, eponymously named Modest Medusa, has been running for four years now, debuting in January 2011. It traces the perambulations (if a little girl with a snake-body can be said to have such things) of a 5-year-old medusa girl who stumbles from her world into ours, rooked over here by a pair of mean-girl mermaids, and enters the world of her accidental father figure - a comic version of the artist, Portlander Jake Richmond - through his toilet.

His apartment waterlogged, he moves to another room, and as Modest stays, a completely different life. It has to be seen to be believed. In the four short years of the comic's life, it has swung between adventures heroic, fantastic and fatal and dryly humorous and banal but always with the viewpoint of a little kid just trying to figure out where she's going to fit in. Just like other little kids, her arrival causes tragic disruption (though in ways at times quite hazardous for her new friends).

Where Modest Medusa really shines out, though, is in a subtheme that's quite unexpected … and that takes the form of the reaction of the world around her. Here, the comic operates on an evolved level, because while other characters in the world do see that she is, in fact, a snake girl with snakes for hair, they seem to be little bothered by it. Like the characters in the Pooh stories who accepted Eeyore for what he was and loved him without trying to change him, adults and kids regard her as a little girl - and with her particular talent for winning friends, she soon finds some sort of place.

Jake Richmond has made her a kind of a totem for those us who just don't feel like we belong exactly anywhere but won't let that stop us. She's a fully realized character who finds herself in a world she didn't make.

I don't know about anybody else, but that speaks to me. In Modest's world, the gaze of a medusa won't turn you to stone, but she might melt your heart just a little.

GET IT: The comic is available in toto for you to read at ModestMedusa.com, (Facebook for Jake Richmond so you can be updated every MWF) and can be found in bound, very well-done book format at The Sprightly Bean comic cafe (Facebook). Jake Richmond is also part of Patreon, the website that allows people to actively support comic artists by becoming regular patrons of the artist.

25 March 2015

[branding] On My First Pair of "Doc" Martens

It has come to pass, at this stage of the game, that I've been introduced to my first pair of Dr. Martens shoes. And since I started breaking them in, a surprisingly gentle process, I've been struck suddenly with a great many resonances with what I've learnt over time about style, reputation, and that god of our modern times, branding. 

The Shoes In Question. Dr Martens Icon 7B10 SSF.
Branding is all, it must be writ somewhere largely, more than likely in some latter-day design text. And, to a degree, it makes sense. More than ever, marketing doesn't just seem to mean getting things sold, it means survival. And Docs have survived, that's for certain - 50 years and more now.

What the brand signature of Docs contain, then, carries a lot of baggage. They've been everywhere … from the forefront of 60s British rock and roll (Pete Townshend made them famous and Tommy put them on the map, according to the legend) to the urban discontent of 70s and 80s era punks and skinheads – a signature of violence. Since then, they've ascended to the rarefied air of timeless fashion, it would seem. And now, non-ironically, characters from Adventure Time are rocking them.

Dr. Martens are as likely to be worn latterly as for reasons of style as well as for reasons of function. In several cities in America and around the world, Dr. Martins have boutique-style storefronts; Portland is one of them, with a store at the corner of NW 10th Ave. and W. Burnside Street, across the street from Powell's Books.

There's history there … you can shop in a space that once held the broadcast booth where the legendary KISN Good Guys held court, visibly from the street. A lot of commerce has gone that way.

For someone like me, the primary consideration in investing in a pair of Docs is quality and endurance. I prefer the workboot style – properly kept, in a sharp style and profile, goes with just about anything, and will take you everywhere. The well-done workboot, with its treaded, skid-resistant sole, should offer traction that will make the urban walker feel confident on and off the street. It's a real all-purpose style for someone who doesn't want to be bothered too much about it.

The Dr. Martens Icon 7B10 SSF gives me all that, and more there's the obvious appeal to quality. The manufacturer makes a pride of showing off the quality steps involved, and, if you come from a background of buying a pair of Payless Shoe Source shoes every couple of years, after thrashing the current pair, the high quality of the components are obvious after even the most causal perusal. Next to the famous air-cushioned soles of the Docs, the soles of the Payless shoes seem cheap plastic; the leather of the uppers is supple and feels good to the touch, as opposed to the cheaper, thinner leather of the others; the pull-strap on the back of the shoe seems designed with easy donning in mind, rather than simply put there for looks. Dr. Martens has learned lessons in fit, design and construction from the decades of serving workers of many lands (before it made its debut on the stage, Docs were favored by workers in heavy trades such as construction and postal work).

So, by now, Dr. Martens is all those things and more, an example of basic style that adapts to the whims of fashion and though it went on outings with thugs in its youth, it's grown up and gotten down to work, and if the message is sometimes a little mixed (we fancy our Docs were Made in England, as in the web site's screenshot - though mine were made in China, and Made In England applies to a subset of their styles) the accent on solid quality for the value (you'll be paying a lot for a good pair of Docs, but you'll presumably get at least as much back in function and use) keeps it a vital product, and all of that positive attribution makes it into the brand, and keeps it valuable.

If it keeps me out of the shoe store every two years, stays easy-to-wear, and stays looking good, then that'll aquit them with me. 

24 March 2015

[SJK] By The Way, I've Made A 2015 Portland Photo Calendar … And You Can Still Buy One

… and, in my best tradition of being late to the party …

Well, actually, it's been up for over a month now. Since I was on an effective blog hiatus, I didn't post it here, though I have been promoting it on my Facebook stream. I, still, after all this time, am something of a schlimihl (in a Benny Profane way) when it's come to my self-promotion over the years.

No matter. Despite my schlimihl-hood, my amateur photography is definitely of a much higher grade. Reviewing the calendar itself will tell anyone this, and to my tens of readers who've followed this blog over the time I've posted pictures to it know that there're some pretty personal and special views of my beloved town.

Here's a preview of the Portland-y goodness it contains:

This is all available now at a 15% discount. This is a good deal because about 15-20 percent of the year's gone, but you still get 100% of 2015 in it, and 100% of the photos.

It's available at Lulu, and I'd be thrilled to see a few more copies. If you're good on the calendar tip, I understand … how about sharing this if you are?

To purchase it, follow this link (There's also a purchase link in the preview above):


[pdx_photo] Some Recent Weather, With Added I-205 And Mount Hood

These two photos have already been seen by the people who follow me on the Book of Face, but as an open notebook of What I Is And Wherever It Is I Be Going, they belong as scrap here, as The Wife™ has pointed out (using different words but the intent is most clear).

I'm using reduced-res versions intended for web posting, so the date of the photos are up to recollections sake. The metadata seem to have been clobbered, somehow.

This lovely shot is another one from the stretch of NE 122nd Avenue, just south of Shaver Street. If there's a reason I've developed a staunch affinity for this patch of ground, a working farm now well within the urbanized precincts of Portland, I'd be selling it short; there are many. But just one is it offers a postcard-ready reveal of Mount Hood, and I've rattled on ad nauseam about how much I adore looking at that peak.

This was a January morning, one of those ones where I'd hoped that the cloud cover would just nick the summit so I could have my own photo of one of those sundial-shadows that we've seen over the past season, where fall was held over into winter. No luck there, but this is a satisfying consolation prize.

This one was more recent, toward the end of February, with a fog bank closed on the area somewhat south of SE Stark Street in the Mall 205 area. POV for this is the NE Glisan Street overpass on I-205.

The fun part of this is that way the perspective makes it appear as though the Burnside Street overpass (the one that is actually visible) is keeping the fogbank from settling on I-205. In reality, the fog drew a preternaturally-straight line along Stark Street (which is obscured b foreground objects), but it looks as though the fog-free area goes quite a ways back, thanks to Portland's obviously-unicorn-and-magical-girl-powered public works.

The distance to Burnside Street is about 1/4 of a mile. The fog is about 1/2 mile away (NE Glisan to SE Stark is 10 blocks, and there are 20 to the mile here).

[Liff] This Is How You Coffee Cup

This is an oooooooold warhorse.

It's been with me since the mid 80s. I got it, under some distressed circumstances, in Seattle. I think I've owned it now for about two decades.

Since I still aspire to authorhood, I'll relate a quip a friend of mine once evinced:

"Where is a writer when he doesn't have his coffee cup?
He's looking for his coffee cup."

You may replace he with she and writer with artist, as the context and circumstance dictate.

Here, friends, is that cup:

It's five inches high, and about five inches wide at the base. It's august volume holds about 21 ounces of liquid; back in the day, I was a much more avid coffee drinker, more of the two-fisted variety, who thought nothing of draining one or more Mr. Coffee-carafes' worth per day.

Today, where once I drank my coffee with unrestrained gusto, I more approach it with the constant sip. I will sometimes leave a few dregs of coffee in the bottom of the pot. But the mug is still with me.

You only really find one truly great one. The maker of this much, a California company called Bearly Surviving, apparently has gone out of business some time ago. Smaller versions of this same design are available only on places like eBay and from collectors. For a price. These big mamas, the 21-ouncers, are even harder to find than that.

Vanishingly rare. You can't replace 'em, you can only repair 'em.

But there is nothing I don't love about this cup, even though it be shattered and put together again. As a matter of fact, when, at last, it dropped to the floor and broke, I made sure every piece was accounted for and kept them … for a span of years. Eventually the right glue came along.

I don't worry too much about it leaching into the coffee … after all, I rarely fill it to the brim any more, and when I do, which isn't often, it doesn't stay that full for very long. Mmmmm, coffee.

The cracks are a badge of honor, of service, really. When something like this stays with you this long, it's more than a favorite. It goes beyond being a fetish, and even jumps over talisman.

By now, it's achieved totemic proportion. And you don't jettison that, friends, unless you have to.

Go ahead, have this quirk. You're an artist.  You're entitled.

23 March 2015

[PDX_art] Illustrator Vaughn Barker's Little Women

Vaughn Barker is a Portland illustrator who I'm privileged to say I've met in the flesh. He can be found behind the register at +Muse Art and Design where we've betimes also found his art on display. He's one of those people who are the committed illustrator I should have been but I can't envy him his talent. I do think he should be much more widely-known than he is.

Of course, he may well be. I have a history of being somewhat late-to-the-party. But the art I've seen hung in the store is masterfully done and inspiring to look at. What has me feeling antic inside, though, are his little women.

Peep this, folks:

She's a mail courier fearlessly ascending a rope latter to her transportation. Fierce and adorable, she's letting nothing stop her. What is her mission? Hers and hers alone to know, but I'd trust her to complete that. That sort of confidence is stopped by nothing or nobody.

It's a scan of the central part of the print you see there to the right. The titles of it is Special Delivery and it speaks warmly of a dieselpunk, 1930s/1940s atmosphere, pulp stories, adventurers and daring exploits. I look at this and my mind flashes to Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, the 'gee-whiz' sort of story that young guys and gals would read from magazines made of rough, brown paper with covers decorated with dramatically-colored paintings.

There's a sort of theory I subscribe to about the transmission of taste and style down through the decades. To us in America, the 1930s and 1940s, despite a back drop of depression, misery and war, somehow remain the height of fashion and style with this stereotypical American dash … the fedora … the trenchcoat … the smartly-dressed tough noir fellow, in those stories, even the plain girls were glamorous, even the old matrons were stylish. As you went on into the 1950s, style renewed itself and could go any direction; but through the 60s, 70s, and 80s, it just got more forgettable. So, even now, in the year 2015, if you want debonair style mixed with your adventure, you go back to the 1930s and 1940s.

Vaughn's art seems to be inflected with this sensibility. He has another series of beautiful works, in which warplanes fill the sky while a Valkyrie-like spirit seems to float amongst them. Those are dashing in and of themselves, and I highly recommend them. But, maybe it's my intensifying attraction toward all things 'toon, his little women really excite me. Built on an abbreviated canon, they exude fierceness, smarts, attitude, an unafraid personality, and are impossible not to fall in love with. Made of thick shapes and ovoid ovals, they are never the less as cute as they are formidable, and even a little bit sexy.

You just want to follow them, to see what happens to them next.

I should hope we see more of them.

You can visit Vaughn's website (and buy art prints) at http://www.vaughnbarker.com/. His alter-ego, Valentine Barker, she of the small women, holds court at her blog, http://www.chalkyheart.com. Vaughn's personal blog, The 'Stration Station, is http://strationstation.blogspot.com/

[PDX] Maxfield Parrish Light in Central Portland

I inaugurate here another attempt to shatter the ennui and start posting again on a regular basis. Reasons, reasons, reasons. But also a lot to say and sometimes one gets tied up trying to do it. But enough maundering. On to pictures.

There is a painting by Maxfield Parrish, called The Dinky Bird, which exemplifies what I'm going to rattle here about, that shows clouds lit by what looks like a setting sun, in the distance behind a castle. Kurt Vonnegut spoke of "Maxfield Parrish light" in The Sirens of Titan. And sometimes, in reality, the setting sun combines with enormous puffy cumulus, and rarefies them in just that exact way. And that's what we saw today on our perambulations.

Starts, as many of our wanderings do, from the corner of 10th and West Burnside. Powell's Books. You can't get more Portland than we do.

Actually, we'd come out of here after getting me new shoes. First pair of Dr. Martens, and it's because they're built to last. But we look down West Burnside toward the core of downtown, and here's what we see:

There's that "Maxfield Parrish light". It's plain what that guy was thinking when he painted those skies. Who wouldn't want to reproduce that, to bend weather to one's will?

The neat thing about sunsets like this is they seem to last forever. We crawled around the formerly-affordable areas of inner-eastside Portland, stopping at 7th and East Burnside to take the above picture. There are these buildings like the above, three or four of them in this section of East Burnside and one similar to it over at 28th and NE Glisan, which have these delightful arcade façades, that will hopefully not be developed out of existence.

Here in Portland, I like to fancy, we tend to take our history a little more seriously and knowingly than other places. For now it seems to be thus.

The above picture was taken at about NE 10th and Flanders. The industrial buildings in front of us here are part of the United States Bakery … but locals know it as the Franz Bakery, where that great Northwest brand still is made every day.

In the lower center, there's a long sign which may not be terribly visible in this resolution, but you have the blue Franz oval, and below it the sign which reads off the company's august slogan,  "Flavor beyond  compare¨ . And that underline word is in red, as though to really impress upon you that, well, your views are your views, but if you compare that Franz flavor with anyone or anything else. you got trouble, fella. That's just not done here. Don't push it, chum.

And, as a close-out, here's the fading light making a delicate display as seen from the parking lot of the Goodwill Superstore at SE Grand and Caruthers. The Maxfield Parrish light is beginning to go, but seems somehow more grand and sweeping for all that.

15 October 2014

[literature] What Did Not Kill Harlan Ellison Obviously Didn't Try Hard Enough

We have been following the news of the travail of a man called, by himself, 'possibly the most contentious human being in the world' with some interest.

Above: L: Susan Ellison, R: This mook she married.
Photo: Steven Barber
Harlan Ellison, we have heard, has suffered a stroke, since about a week now. He's been in the hospital, and we hear, is doing quite well actually. He has, it is reported, lost a bit of use of his right arm and right leg.

This will do some damage to his legendary typing speed, though how his right leg entered into it, I'll never know.

I've admired his writing and watched with amusement and awe as the legends about the man grew and got spread. I've heard him described in glowing terms; one person I knew once referred to him as "The Ego That Ate Corvallis."

What he was ever doing in Corvallis, I'll also never know.

My exposure to him began with a copy of the collection Approaching Oblivion, which has eleven short, crisp, sharp-edged stories which range from the almost-too-abstract-to-be-a-story "Ecowareness" to the dark "Cold Friend" to the barbed "Knox" to the warmest, most humorous Jewish story I've ever read, "I'm Looking for Kadak", almost Sholem Aleichem in miniature. I came to this book as a 11-year-old who sent in a penny to the Science Fiction Book Club without telling my Mom; if I had had any actual ambition, this probably would have spurred my rise to becoming an actual author; as it was, even though I didn't comprehend the stories, I sensed kind of a kindred spirit there. At 11, I was a bullied social outcast, and knowing, even though not clearly, that there was someone out there who saw the world as I did, while it didn't spur me on to any artistic destiny, at the very least it helped me cope.

It is a beloved book. I still keep a copy (Book Club Edition for memory's sake, bought from Powell's) on the headboard of my bed.

He is, thankfully, recovering. His wit, they say, is as sharp as ever. I have the good fortune as having as online friends some people who are personally very close to Harlan, and they have collectively described the scent at the hospital as one of more than a fair amount of mirth. When a stroke victim is entertaining his guests, you know that's a good sign.

So, for what it's worth, whether you like him or dislike him, he's still with us.

What did not kill him should have tried harder … but I'm glad it gave up.

Steven Barber, a/k/a The Thumbnail Traveler, has a short heartfelt thing to say about it. The photo above is also via his gracious aegis, for which I am doubly grateful. 

[creativity] Inspiration Pad Dares You To Ride The Wave

Of all the interesting ways to challenge your creative brain to keep up, this is one of the most interesting and simple I've seen.

Designed my Mark Thomasset, the Inspriation Pad at first seems like just another of the incredible range of paper notebooks we've been seeing all over. About the same form factor, thickness, dimensions. It's a ruled notebook, red margin line, blue writing lines. But you open one and maybe you see this:

Or any one of a bunch of different patterns, from other waves, to mazes, to off-kilter registrations of the pattern, to sphereized and pinched lines.

The closest analogy I can come to is that of the Zen koan which, as I understand it, is a riddle without a logical answer. Considering the koan causes your mind to go places where logic cannot follow and the answer to the riddle as such is equally ineffable.

One looks at the wavy pattern above and the mind jumps on it and tries to ride it, and out of that creative tension, ideas may flow.

This has apparently been around for a while, but this is the first I've heard of it and I was delighted when I did. I can see why this might work but, of course, as the response to a koan, I can't put it into words.

The first version of this is displayed as a Behance project here: https://www.behance.net/gallery/Inspiration-Pad/430578,  and the current Pad is available through design firm TM's website, here: http://www.tmsprl.com/shop.html 

07 October 2014

[teh_funnay] Meanwhile, somewhere near Westeros…

GRRM hasn't killed all 140 characters … he still uses Twittah …

06 October 2014

[art, map] The Story of the Void in Jerry Gretzinger's Map

Back last year I posted here about a most singularly delightful thing, Jerry's Map.

To recap, the story goes kind of like this: One day, in 1963, during lulls in what is only described as a tedious job, Jerry Gretzinger, a resident of New York State, started drawing a map of an imaginary city. The city reached the edge of the sheet; he attached another, and kept on going. He kept this up for 20 years.

In 1983, life offered sufficient distraction to cause him to put the map of Ukrainia on the shelf. Then, after 20 years of sleeping, the land awoke again when Jerry's grandson discovered the map and it lit the creative fire again. Since 2003, he's been expanding it even farther using a system of playing cards pained and decorated, that give him directions on what to do next.

The cards rule.

Over the past 51 years, Jerry's been working on the map for 31 of them. The map has expanded into areas of collage that are truly impressive. But some things of Jerry's world tend to stick harder than others, and the most haunting aspect is that of "The Void". See, when Jerry draws a certain card, areas of his map that aren't watched over by defensive works get transferred to The Void.

What exactly The Void is has been left as an exercise to the reader up until now. Some hint has been extended by the creator himself that The Void is not simply an oblivion where people disappear into utter annihilation. As noted in my earlier report on Jerry's map, when a section of the city of Fields West, pop about 700,000, was Voided, …
this largely unprotected city of over 700,000 souls saw the relocation of an estimated 15,700 individuals to the alternative dimensions inside the Void.  This portion of historic old town will be greatly missed by the remaining residents.
While the amazingness of Ukrainia itself is pretty entrancing, the idea of a Void incursion as an occasional thing has a hauntingness about it, and the author's evident idea that the victims within the Voided precincts actually go to another place is compellingly fascinating.

Jerry has begun posting YouTube videos about his process: the channel is https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCl07nZ3C1kGhnFiDW87EvBQThis video, however, answers the central question about just what the Void is, while raising further questions, which Jerry is no doubt exploring as we speak:

Again, Jerry's blog about all this, which is interesting following, is http://jerrysmap.blogspot.com/

03 October 2014

[caturday] Kiki ArtKitty Provides Supervision

Whether or not I waste time in the studio, she's watching me.

Almost like she's keeping score.

Sure, I can screw off, but I'll have to answer to the fluffball.

[design] The ABC Of Lettering, A Type Handbook From the 50s

I'm not quite sure where I got this gem, but it's going to be a valuable resource.

The book is called The ABC of Lettering, and the author is J.I. Beiegeleisen. It was apparently first published in the 1940s, and this copy that I scored somehow was apparently published around 1958.

It is in excellent condition, considering.

Extensive instruction on how to letter, what strokes to do - script as well as manuscript, and big, big, beautiful specimen displays, as thus:

I think this particular edition was published around 1958, and sold for $8.50.

I got it for $6, which means it held its value better than some cars and most houses.

01 October 2014

[artist] Jack Ohman Comes Back To Portland

… but just for a night. But one night is better than no nights, then, isn't it?

I will admit to being a rather giddy fan of Jack. During the 80s, the 90s, and the double-aughts, as he defined political humor for The Oregonian, I became a fan. Impossible not to, as far as I'm concerned. His wit, so dry as to make the planet Arrakis seem a rainforest, and an unmistakable drawing style were first-class to me, and I was smugly proud that, being The O's cartoonist, he was ours.

I've been a fan of the editorial cartoonist in general since I was a little kid who was one of the few I knew who could pronounce the word Watergate. I've been a political news-obsessive for that long. All of my favorites, I found, served their wit on wry; Toles, Danziger, MacNelly, Oliphant, Herblock. An acid wit was a must for me. Still is.

When me and a lot of local Ohmanites found out, just about two years ago this month, that Jack had decided to leave The Oregonian, devastated … well, that word will have to do, though it be somehow inadequate. Tear out our hearts, why don't ya, Oregonian?

Well, that was then; this is now. Jack's gone on to the Sacramento Bee, and has cut an amazingly funny (and aptly trenchant) figure; anyone who can make Rich "Governor Goodhair" Perry cry is just my kind of cartoonist. The drawings remain as crisp and funny as ever, though now focussed on California politics, and this isn't a bad thing, really … I can't remember having this much fun following lower-left coast politics. When I heard that he was coming back to Portland to do a talk on political cartooning, I was hooked; when I found out it was free, I was netted and boated; when I hit the World Affairs Council of Oregon's website and found that I was early enough to nab a couple of seats, I was served for dinner.

The conditions of Monday were covered in the previous missive; I shant retread that path, trompe l'oeil or no. I will make the short, shameful admission that I've never, unto now, have visited the Oregon Historical Society, and it's shameful because my taxes make it so that, as a Multomah County resident, I can visit for free. I should know better than this.

Tickets were unnecessary; all that was required was to check in at the door. We entered the spacious atrium area and was able to get a seat up at the front.

The casualness of the crowd could belie the importance of some of the people that were there that night. But a bit more on that presently.

Jack recognized me in the front row and shot me a friendly hello; I returned thumbs up. I am fortunate to have his friendly custom on FB, and that's how he recognized me. If anyone remembers how sharp and witty the humor in his cartoons were, I can tell you that Jack's one of those rare people who come off in reality as advertised virtually. Warm, generous of spirit, and funny as hell.

On the left, OHS director Kerry Tymchuk. On the right, Jack Ohman.

Somehow I got a photo of his shoes.
The talk began right on time, and OHS's Kerry Tymchuk did the wisest thing in letting Jack roll about his times here in Oregon. You may have heard Jack was smart; I had an inkling, reading his cartoons and writings through his Oregonian years. Forgive me the obvious joke, but I didn't know Jack; the man is an encyclopedia of mid-to-late 20th Century lore on everything Oregon Politics from the legendary Senator Wayne Morse forward, and I suppose it stands to reason. Uncurious people do not make good or memorable political cartoonists. Sharp wits collect the best stories.

And now, I have more reading to do.

I found it funny, though it stands certainly to reason, that politicians who get japed at by political cartoonists want the originals, even if the portrayal isn't always that complimentary. It's a little like "Wierd Al" Yankovic in a way … you know you've arrived if Jack makes fun of you in the paper. It's a sign you've arrived.

I remember a certain Ohman cartoon which showed Lon Mabon losing it over two men grasping hands in a certain way, and the man who was with the Mabon character telling him to relax, it was only a secret fraternal handshake. I find myself wondering if Mabon ever asked for that original … I'm betting no. Lon Mabon didn't strike me as a man with much humor in him.

The field of political cartooning is nowhere near what it once was, with the national supply going, sadly, down. According to what I heard, not only did a lot of smaller-market dailies have political cartoonists, but the bigger ones had two or even three (when Jack started out, at age 19, at The Columbus Dispatch and later at the Detroit Free Press, if I heard correctly, he was in one of those arrangements). I still feel a deep loss that The Oregonian wouldn't hang on to Jack, but as far as the role he's playing at the Sacramento Bee, where I still follow his work, I'm thrilled that some actual-news-7-day-delivery-paper has the good sense to support him.

The talk was capped by Jack talking about various cartoons and cartoonists and their impact on their subjects. This was where I heard the story about subjects wanting the originals, and we all got to chat and shake hands. Jack, I found was a very encouraging presence. A woman who wondered to me how someone would get a start at editorial cartooning, who was asking on behalf of her kid, was treated as a new friend; I stood for a few minutes next to Norma Paulus, who was almost Oregon's governor circa 1986, and was momentarily within about an arm's length of David Sarasohn, who still writes pretty much the best opinion articles The Oregonian publishes, which crackle with dry wit and great style.

I did shake Sarasohn's hand and just thanked him for being who he was, which I think is a necessary thing, especially these days. and yes, I'm a giddy fan, so there's me for you.

I don't know what its like for other people who meet people like this who are nationally acclaimed and that one really sincerely admires. But the few minutes I spent near Jack made me feel like a friend. This was a big experience for me, and I'm thankful.

Jack, as you can see, did me the ultimate benediction sketching me an quick-self-portrait in my diary (yes, this is my diary. Not even my wife has seen the inside of it but Jack has). It's in volume 19, which happens to also be my favorite number, but now I'll be able to find it, too.

And, you know, I don't usually let people see the inside of my diary, but when I do, it's because a remarkably inspiring friend has made a sketch there.

Thanks for hitting Portland again, Jack, and thanks for being a friend. 

30 September 2014

[PDX] Downtown, Trompe l'Oeil and Church - The Corner of SW Park And Madison

On Monday, yesterday night, we saw the talk that Jack Ohman gave at the Oregon Historical Society. That wonderfulness will be for the next missive. Before we entered the building, of course, the surroundings on the Park Blocks, at SW Park Avenue and Madison Street, caught my attention, and I was, of course, smitten.

Aw, you know how I do.

There are two sets of what we call 'Park Blocks' in Downtown Portland. The north wing starts at West Burnside and runs north between NW Park Avenue and 8th Avenue until one block south of the Main Post Office on NW Glisan. The south wing runs south from SW Salmon beween SW 9th Avenue and SW Park Avenue into the Portland State University campus.

The newbie to Portland would probably figure that the pattern of these skinny blocks, only 100 feet wide to the standard 200-foot Portland city blog, running to within a block south of Burnside then jogging as it crosses Burnside to continue north, meant that they were all meant for greenspace, and that newbie would be right. But early Portland business dynasties didn't always give stuff away, and as a result, the blocks north of Salmon and south of Burnside went mostly over to business. Some takeback is occurring; the space known as Directors Park used to be mostly parking. I don't expect to see a greenspace connecting to north wing to the south wing even within my lifetime, so this will have to do.

The history also makes the nomenclature a little tricky. When originally planned out, the South Park Blocks were bounded by streets called West Park Avenue and East Park Avenue. Today, north of Salmon, what was West Park is known as SW 9th Avenue. south of Salmon, both sides of the Blocks are bounded by SW Park Avenue, West Park apparently becoming 9th Street, then SW 9th Avenue, as development occurred.

So much for all that. Back to the pictures.

This is the South Park Blocks, looking north from SW Park and Madison. It's easy to see how the narrow block makes a green corridor. The two wings of Park Avenue on either side are very narrow, even for Portland downtown streets, so the area feels very cozy.

That edifice above is the First Congregational Church, whose construction was completed in 1895. A United Church of Christ congregation is  headquartered there modernly. The top of that campanile is about 175 feet straight up. It's an imposing building but not without a certain comforting weight and presence.

This is the east wing of SW Park Avenue between SW Salmon and Main Streets. Like I said, cozy. The blue-awninged building on the right just up the street is the Oregon Historical Society main building. The real architectural treat is here, though:

Between the new main lobby of the OHS and the corner of Park and Madison there's a courtyard, and overlooking the courtyard is the west side of a building called the Sovereign Hotel, a building that the OHS also owns and is on the Historic Register. The optically-illusory painting on this building face has entranced me for a long time, and it's so well-done that you really think it's a feature of the building.

The French have a word for it: Trompe l'oeil (pronounced, approximately-enough for the English tongue, trump-loy). Literally, 'trick of the eye' or 'to trick the eye', it is exactly that … it delights the eye by fooling it into seeing something that's not there.

In this case, by decorating up what would otherwise be a bland, flat building side into something that truly does delight the eye. It pulls a foolie on you … but you appreciate the joke.

[Unicorns] PDX, Land Of Unicorns. As We've Been Saying

Now, the idea of Portland and unicorns is something I definitely approve of, in as much as here, east of 82nd, the idea of Portlandia is certainly a thing – of which even we, out here, are alternatively entertained and sometimes appalled by.

But somehow, it all comes together and creates something awesome, as witness this t-shirt (which had the tag of the T-Line company of notably unicorn-free Canby) we saw on sale at Powell's this last week:

Indeed, as we've been documenting for a while now, Portland is indeed built on an ancient unicorn burial ground (not to be mistaken with an ancient Unicron burial ground, which is not a thing that I think could possibly exist, but I'm no Transformer expert). And as the tagline I Believe  suggests, this is more than a cute pairing of unicorn and city, but expresses … a deeper truth.

I want to believe. And so do you. Shut up, you do. 

26 September 2014