Category Archives: art my Grandpa loved

People All Have Worth

2nd Doctor  I know that you are probably immediately listing all the reasons that my title is totally wacky monkey-thinking in your head.  And if you want to lay into me in the comments, you are more than welcome.  But the reality is that teachers have to develop the mindset that all kids can learn and all people have value… no matter what.  That can be hard to accept when you factor in how corrupted, warped, and badly-taught so many people have turned out to be.  It honestly seems, sometimes, that when faced with the facts of how people act… being violent, or greedy, self-centered, thoughtless, un-caring, and willfully stupid… that they really don’t even have value to others if you kill them, let them rot, and try to use them as fertilizer.  The plants you fertilize with that stuff will come up deformed.

But the Doctor I have pictured here, the Second Doctor played by Patrick Troughton always seemed to find Earth people delightful.  Alien people too, for that matter, unless they were soulless mobile hate receptacles in robotic trash cans like the Daleks, or mindless machines powered by stolen human brains like the Cybermen.  There is, indeed, music in every soul, even if some of it is a little bit discordant and awkward.  And people are not born evil.  The classic study done on Brazilian street kids showed that even with no resources to share and living empty, hopeless lives, the children helped one another, comforted one another, and refused to exploit one another.  As a teacher you get to know every type that there is.  And there are stupid kids (deprived of essential resources necessary to learning), and evil kids (lashing out at others for the pain inflicted upon them), and needy kids (who can never get enough of anything you might offer and always demand more, MORE, MORE!)  Sometimes they drive you insane and make you want to resign and leave the country to go count penguins in Antarctica.  But the Doctor is right.  No matter what has been done to them, if you get to know them, and treat them as individual people rather than as problems… they are delightful!  Andrew

So let me show you a few old drawings of people.

Cute people like Andrew here.

Or possibly stupid and goofy people who never get things right.

Harker

Or long-dead people who made their contributions long ago, and sacrificed everything to make our lives different… if not better.DSCN4448

Supe n Sherry_nOr young people who live and learn and hopefully love…

And try really hard at whatever they do… whether they have talent or not.

Player3

And hope and dream and play and laugh…

And sometimes hate… (but hopefully not too much)…

And can probably tell that I really like to draw people…

Because God made them all for a reason…

even if we will never find out what that reason is.

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Big Eyes

141202210752_margaret_keane_304x171_margaretkeaneYesterday, before the big game, I watched the DVD I bought of Tim Burton’s Golden Globe Award movie, Big Eyes.  It is the true-story bio-pic of an artist I loved as a kid, Margaret Keane… though I knew her as Walter Keane.

This movie is the bizarre real-life tale of an artist whose art was stolen from her by a man she loved, and supposedly loved her back.  I have to wonder how you deal with a thing like that as an artist?  I live in obscurity as an artist.  My art has been published in several venues, but I have never been paid a dime for it.  All I have ever gotten is publication in return for “exposure”, and limited exposure at that.  But my art always brought vigor, joy, and light to my career as a school teacher.  My art was always my own, and had either my own name on it, or the name Mickey on it.  I shared my drawing skill in ways that directly impacted the lives of other people.  It enriched my “teacher life”.

Mrs. Keane’s hauntingly beautiful big-eyed children appealed to the cartoonist in me.  They expressed such deeply-felt character and emotion, that I was obsessed with imitating them.  In fact, the “big-eye-ness” of them can still be detected in some of my work.  I remember wondering how these children, mostly girls, could be drawn by a grown man.  What was his obsession with little girls?  But the true story reveals that he was a man so desperate to have art talent and notoriety that he put his name on his wife’s work, made her paint in secret, and eventually convinced himself that it was actually his.  He had a real genius for marketing art, and he invented many of  the art-market ploys that would later inform the careers of homely artists like Paul Detlafsen and Thomas Kinkaid.  One wonders if Mrs. Keane could’ve ever become famous and popular without him.

 

The movie itself is a Tim Burton masterpiece that reveals the artist that lives within the filmmaker himself.  I love Burton’s movies for their visual mastery and artistic atmosphere.  They are all very different in look and feel.  Batman was very dark and Gothic, inventing an entirely new way of seeing Batman that differed remarkably from the 60’s TV series.  Edward Scissorhands was full of muted, pastel colors and gentle humor.  Alice in Wonderland was full of bright colors and oddly distorted fantasy characters.  Dark Shadows was Gothic melodrama in 70’s pop-art style.  This movie was true to the paintings that inspired it and visually saturate it.  It is beautiful and colorful, while also serious and somber.  It makes you contemplate the tears in the eyes of the big-eyed waifs in so many of the pictures.  It is a movie “I love with a love that is more than a love in this kingdom by the sea”… if I may get all obsessive like Edgar Allen Poe.

big_eyes_2014_movie-1280x960

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keane-movie-still-6

So, there you have it.  Not so much a movie review as an effusion of love and admiration for an artist’s entire life and work.  I am captivated… fascinated… addicted… all the things I always feel about works of great art.

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Toonerville, a Place I Once Lived In

There is a place so like the place where my heart and mind were born that I feel as if I have always lived there.  That place is a cartoon panel that ran in newspapers throughout the country from 1913 to 1955 (a year before I was born in Mason City, Iowa).  It was called Toonerville Folks and was centered around the famous Toonerville Trolley.

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Fontaine Fox was born near Louisville Kentucky in 1884.  Louisville, of course is one of the two cities that claims to be the inspiration for Toonerville.  Apparently the old Brook Street Line Trolley in Louisville was always run-down, operating on balls of twine and bailing wire for repair parts.  The people of Pelham, New York, however, point to a trolley ride Fox took in 1909 on Pelham’s rickety little trolley car with a highly enterprising and gossip-dealing old reprobate for a conductor.  No matter which it was, Fox’s cartoon mastery took over and created Toonerville, where you find the famous trolley that “meets all trains”.

toonervilletrolly-cupplesleon toonerville-trolley

I didn’t learn of the comic strip’s existence until I was in college, but once I found it (yes, I am the type of idiot who researches old comics in university libraries), I couldn’t get enough of it.  Characters like the Conductor, the Powerful (physically) Katrinka, and the terrible-tempered Mr. Bang can charm the neck hair off of any Midwestern farm-town boy who is too stupid to regret being born in the boring old rural Midwest.

Toonerville 84

I fancied myself to be just like the infamous Mickey (himself) McGuire.  After all, we have the same first name… and I always lick any bully or boob who wants to put up a fight (at least in my daydreams).

MickeyMcGuire

So, this is my tribute to the cartoonist who probably did more to warp my personality and make me funny (well, at least easy to laugh at! ) than any other influence.  All of the cartoons in this post can be credited to Fontaine Fox.  And all the people in them can be blamed on Toonerville, the town I used to live in, though I never really knew it until far too late.

Toonerville 35 1931_12_18_Pelham_Sun_Section_2_Pg_1_Col_2_Toonerville_Comic 10-17-2010 07;49;35PMToonervillecolor021531

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In Praise of Louis L’Amour

L'AmourBantam50Aniv

This man was my Grandpa Aldrich’s favorite author.  Grandpa had ridden the range in the Dakotas in the 1920’s and early 30’s.  He was basically an Iowa farmer for his whole life, but he rode horseback on the plains just long enough to become addicted vicariously to the life L’Amour so vividly describes in his many western novels.

Grandpa read every Louis L’Amour book the Rowan library had.  He read a few more besides.  And I have no idea how many he read twice, three times, or more.  For the last decade of his life, he did very little sleeping, being used to two hours of actual sleep a night, and spending the rest of the time reading westerns while he rested.

This reading addiction is not only one that I understand, but share.  I, too, love the westerns, the heroes, the manly and poetic prose, and the sheer story-telling ability of Louis L’Amour.  I have not yet read every single book he wrote while he was alive.  But I am working on it.

Recently I reread the book The Daybreakers, a critical cog in the story-cycle of the Sackett family.  Here is my review from Goodreads of the third time I read this book.

Goodreads

882053
The Daybreakers 
by

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Michael Beyer‘s review

Jul 01, 2018  ·  edit
it was amazing


This book is as much a hero’s journey as Star Wars. In some ways it is more complex. And in many ways it is a better story.
Louis L’Amour is a master storyteller. He created the narrator hero, Tyrel Sackett, as a young Luke Skywalker. His natural Force abilities are those qualities which make him a competent Westerner and a powerful gunfighter. His brother Orrin Sackett takes the Han Solo role from rogue pilot to New Mexico Sheriff and eventual congressman. Jonathan Pritts is the evil Emperor. He wants to take over the Mexican land grant belonging to the Alvarado family (Princess Leiah’s family on Alderaan). (Drusilla Alvarado is the Princess Leiah character). Ironically, Tom Sunday is a reverse Darth Vader. He befriends Tye, teaches him to read and how to be a good cattleman. And then he later turns on the Sackett family because of a wrong he feels from Orrin. The confrontation between Tye and his dark-side father figure is inevitable.
The writer abilities I see in the author deserve a much more detailed analysis than I can write here, but I loved this great American novel and strongly recommend it.

We have lost Louis L’Amour.  He will never write another book.  Which gives me a chance to read everything he wrote.  But he writes so well, and is such an important part of American literature, that is only the smallest of consolations.

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Toonerville, a Place I Once Lived In

There is a place so like the place where my heart and mind were born that I feel as if I have always lived there.  That place is a cartoon panel that ran in newspapers throughout the country from 1913 to 1955 (a year before I was born in Mason City, Iowa).  It was called Toonerville Folks and was centered around the famous Toonerville Trolley.

4924968092_e6175d7bbb_z

Fontaine Fox was born near Louisville Kentucky in 1884.  Louisville, of course is one of the two cities that claims to be the inspiration for Toonerville.  Apparently the old Brook Street Line Trolley in Louisville was always run-down, operating on balls of twine and bailing wire for repair parts.  The people of Pelham, New York, however, point to a trolley ride Fox took in 1909 on Pelham’s rickety little trolley car with a highly enterprising and gossip-dealing old reprobate for a conductor.  No matter which it was, Fox’s cartoon mastery took over and created Toonerville, where you find the famous trolley that “meets all trains”.

toonervilletrolly-cupplesleon toonerville-trolley

I didn’t learn of the comic strip’s existence until I was in college, but once I found it (yes, I am the type of idiot who researches old comics in university libraries), I couldn’t get enough of it.  Characters like the Conductor, the Powerful (physically) Katrinka, and the terrible-tempered Mr. Bang can charm the neck hair off of any Midwestern farm-town boy who is too stupid to regret being born in the boring old rural Midwest.

Toonerville 84

I fancied myself to be just like the infamous Mickey (himself) McGuire.  After all, we have the same first name… and I always lick any bully or boob who wants to put up a fight (at least in my daydreams).

MickeyMcGuire

So, this is my tribute to the cartoonist who probably did more to warp my personality and make me funny (well, at least easy to laugh at! ) than any other influence.  All of the cartoons in this post can be credited to Fontaine Fox.  And all the people in them can be blamed on Toonerville, the town I used to live in, though I never really knew it until far too late.

Toonerville 35 1931_12_18_Pelham_Sun_Section_2_Pg_1_Col_2_Toonerville_Comic 10-17-2010 07;49;35PMToonervillecolor021531

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Homely Art – Part Two – Paul Detlefsen

Detlefsen-Swimming_Hole

Back in about 1968 my Grandma Beyer was seriously scandalized by an artist named Paul Detlefsen.  Detlefsen did a lot of covers for the “Ideals Magazine” that Grandma always had on her coffee tables.  He scandalized her by putting a painting on the cover that showed a young boy taking his pants off, the rear view only, so he could go skinny dipping with a group of naked boys.  Truthfully the picture shown above is by Detelfsen, but it is not the one that offended her.  I have discovered that this painter of old-timey things like blacksmith shops and one-room school houses has painted at least four different versions of “the Old Swimmin’ Hole”.  And Grandma was easily scandalized when we were kids.  She was a very conservative woman who loved Ronald Reagan and his politics most severely and thought that Richard Nixon was a leftist radical.  She didn’t like for people to be naked, except for bath time, and maybe not even then.  She is one of the main reasons, along with this painter whom she adored, that I came to learn later in life that “naked is funny”.horseandbuggydays-print  http://www.freeplaypost.com/PaulDetlefsen_VintageArtPrint_A.htm

Grandma Beyer also seriously loved puzzles, and besides “Ideals” covers, Paul Detlefsen did a beaucoup of jigsaw puzzles. (Beaucoup means a lot in Texican, I tend to think in Iowegian and talk in Texican and completely forget about the need to translate for those people who don’t know those two foreign tongues)   One of the puzzles we spent hours working on was “Horse and Buggy Days” that I pictured here.  They were the kind of puzzle paintings where every boy was Tom Sawyer and every girl was Becky Thatcher.  And there were a lot of them.  Here is another;

detlefsen

http://www.bigredtoybox.com/cgi-bin/toynfo.pl?detlefsenindex

Grandma had this in puzzle form also.  We put the puzzle together, glued it to tag board, and framed it.  It has hung on the wall in a Grandparent’s house, first Grandma Beyer’s and then Grandma Aldrich’s, since the early 1970’s.  My own parents now live in Grandma Aldrich’s house, and that puzzle-painting may be hanging in an upstairs bedroom to this very day.  Detlefsen is not known as a great artist.  He was a humble painter who painted backdrops for films for over 20 years.  In the 1950’s he switched gears and started doing lithographs that were turned into calendars, jigsaw puzzles, laminated table mats, playing cards, and reproductions you could buy in the Ben Franklin Dime Store in Belmond, Iowa and hang on your back porch at home.  I believe I saw his paintings in all these forms in one place or another.  According to Wikipedia (I know, research, right?) “In 1969, UPI estimated that his artwork had been seen by 80 per cent of all Americans.”  That is pretty dang good for a humble painter, better numbers than Pablo Picasso ever saw.  Let me share a few more of his works, and see if you recognize any of these;

db_Paul_Detlefsen_Covered_Bridge1 b01e8afaadde Artist Paul Detlefsen PaulDetlefsen_VintageArtPrint_B11 il_fullxfull.285794883

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The Lovely Lennon Sisters

Grandpa and Grandma Aldrich lived on the family farm outside of town, a little more than two miles from the tiny farm town of Rowan, Iowa.  I walked it more than once.  It was faster to walk the railroad tracks between the two places.  About a mile and three quarters as the crow flies… three hours as the boy investigates the critters in the weeds, throws rocks at dragonflies, and listens to the birdsong along the way.  But the point is, my maternal grandparents lived close enough to have a profound influence on my young life.  Much of what they loved became what I love.  And every Saturday night, they loved to watch the Lawrence Welk Show.  And that show had highlights that we longed to see again and again… on a show that never really went into reruns.  We lived to see Jo Ann Castle play the old rinky-tink piano, Bobby and Cissy doing a dance routine, and most of all… the lovely Lennon Sisters.

I always wanted to be the things they wished me to be in the song “May You Always”.  I wanted to “walk in sunshine” and “live with laughter”.  They presented a world of possibilities all clean and good and wholesome.  As a young boy who hated girls, I had a secret crush on Janet Lennon who was the youngest, though a decade older than me, and on Peggy Lennon, the one with the exotic Asian eyes.  They sang to me and spoke directly to my heart.

You have to believe in something when you are young.  The world can present you with so many dark and hurtful experiences, that you simply have to have something to hang onto and keep you from being blighted and crippled by the pain.  For me, it often came in the form of a lovely and simple lyric sung by the lovely Lennon Sisters.  When you are faced with hard choices… especially in those dark moments when you think about ending it all because it is all just too much to bear, the things stored in those special pockets of your heart are the only things that can save you.  For me, one of those things will always be the music of the Lennon Sisters… especially when watched on the old black and white TV in the farmhouse where my grandparents lived, and helped to raise me, every Saturday night in the 1960’s.

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Mr. Don Knotts

Being a child of the ’60s and also being fifty percent raised by the television set, it was my privilege to witness and learn from the master comedian of self-deprecating humor and ultimate humiliation. And there is no better preparation for becoming a Texas public school teacher than to learn how to be laughed at from Don Knotts.

I have spent a goodly number of hours during our recent COVID quarantine watching old DVDs of Don Knotts movies. The last four nights I viewed, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, The Shakiest Gun in the West, The Reluctant Astronaut, and The Love God. If you have never seen them, they come with the highest of Mickian recommendations, “They made me laugh so hard I cried.”

Of course, my favorite Don Knotts movie of all time is The Incredible Mr. Limpet.

Knotts always seems to play a character put upon by life in general, yet always believing that he has the inner something to make himself into a huge success. Every time he gets knocked down he quivers with frustration and throws a punch at his tormentors that invariably hits nothing unless he hits himself. In Mr. Limpet, we find a man so frustrated in his inability to help in the war effort that he throws himself into the sea, turning himself into a fish… a fish that helps defeat German U-boats. He makes himself into a hero, He even finds love among the fishes.

Knotts found the perfect comic partner in Tim Conway as they made The Apple Dumpling Gang and its sequel, The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again. Slapstick antics and serious battles against the laws of physics somehow manage to win out over real bad guys with real guns and horses.

I guess the thing that makes Don Knotts such an important part of my television-sourced education is how much I identify with him. Life is a never-ending parade of humbling defeats and blush-inducing humiliations. I have spent most of my life being one with the little-guy within me, the put-upon fellow who has never quite overcome all the little hurts incurred by a desire to overcome the gravity holding me down.

And in a Don-Knotts world, based on a Don-Knotts movie script, things eventually turn out all right in the end. Mr. Chicken is proved right. Abner Peacock ends up marrying the beautiful girl who is the perfect one for him. The dentist who is mistaken for a gun-fighter still gets to be the hero in the end. So, there are worse things than living a Don Knotts sort of life.

Rest in peace, Don Knotts. For though you are no longer with us, you will always live on in my heart… and the hearts of many other Don Knotts wannabes.

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Art Day with Gingerbread

The Coronavirus Isolation has put a lot of new limitations on our lives. But, I happened to have an unused Gingerbread House kit. So, for Art Day, the Princess and I decided to put it all together with supplies we already had on hand. Here, then, is the Beyer Family Gingerbread House 2020.

The unopened kit that was just sitting in storage.
The surprise inside was that the house was already assembled with concrete-like frosting before we even opened it. This is the first Gingerbread House that we have done without having to use tape and Elmer’s Glue.
The Princess decided the box did not make a good hat, but the smell inside it was worth the experiment.
Most of the supplies were old and not creamy enough for easy spreading.
Some of the frosting went on dry and chunky. But some of the piping frosting was the opposite, more runny than a marathon. Mmm… bad pun.

But, it wasn’t a total disaster. We can use our inherent craftiness to rescue it at least a little bit from total wicked-witch-housiness. Though I am sure Hansel and Gretel would still eat it.

And the other side was a little better.
And, as always, the leftovers are edible, though not diabetes-friendly.
Now, all that’s is left to do is have the artists eat the artwork in very small bites over a lot of time.

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Winsor McCay

One work of comic strip art stands alone as having earned the artist, Winsor McCay, a full-fledged exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.  Little Nemo in Slumberland is a one-of-a-kind achievement in fantasy art.

Winsor McCay lived from his birth in Michigan in 1869 to his finale in Brooklyn in 1934.  In that time he created volumes full of his fine-art pages of full-page color newspaper cartoons, most in the four-color process.  

The New Year’s page 1909

As a boy, he pursued art from very early on, before he was twenty creating paintings turned into advertising and circus posters.  He spent his early manhood doing amazingly detailed half-page political cartoons built around the editorials of Arthur Brisbane,  He then became a staff artist for the Cincinnati Times Star Newspaper, illustrating fires, accidents, meetings, and notable events.  He worked in the newspaper business with American artists like Winslow Homer and Frederick Remington who also developed their art skills through newspaper illustration.  He moved into newspaper comics with numerous series strips that included Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend and Little Nemo in Slumberland.  And he followed that massive amount of work up by becoming the “Father of the Animated Cartoon” with Gertie the Dinosaur, with whom he toured the US giving public performances as illustrated in the silent film below; 

The truly amazing thing about his great volume of work was the intricate detail of every single panel and page.  It represents a fantastic amount of work hours poured into the creation of art with an intense love of drawing.  You can see in the many pages of Little Nemo how great he was as a draftsman, doing architectural renderings that rivaled any gifted architect.  His fantasy artwork rendered the totally unbelievable and the creatively absurd in ways that made them completely believable.

I bought my copy of Nostalgia Press’s Little Nemo collection in the middle 70’s and have studied it more than the Bible in the intervening years.  Winsor McCay taught me many art tricks and design flourishes that I still copy and steal to this very day.

No amount of negative criticism could ever change my faith in the talents of McCay.  But since I have never seen a harsh word written against him, I have to think that problem will never come up.

My only regret is that the wonders of Winsor McCay, being over a hundred years old, will not be appreciated by a more modern generation to whom these glorious cartoon artworks are not generally available. 

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