Category Archives: old art

My Surreal Youth

I must confess that I chose to be a surrealist from about the time I discovered the artwork of Salvador Dali at the age of fifteen. I did a report on Dali and Surrealism for 9th grade Art Class. I wanted to be a surrealist because I realized that surrealists got to draw really weird stuff and then pretend it meant something real in the modern real world. So let me show you some of my weirder high school surrealist messings on paper.

Of course, like most teenagers, I was obsessed with death and mortality at a time in which I had not yet learned how to live and stay alive… one of the serious dangers of being a teenage half-brain in a post invention-of-the-atom-bomb world.

So, I start this gruesome dissection of teen-y art apoplexy with a depressingly angst-y picture and poem about the urgency of nameless coming doom.

And at the same time I was basically an angst-y pre-Goth Goth, I was also a lollipop Disneyphile romantic… A pre-My-Little-Pony Brony as it were. I was goofy as all get out and determined to latch onto all the big-eyed art ideals of the many girls I stalked and watched and comprehended incorrectly while never, ever talking to even one of them. (Well, not counting sisters and the several non-aggressive Mickey-lovers who were chasing me and courting me while I was totally oblivious to facts of it.)

But I was also aware of a spiritual something that lurked in my church-going Sunday self that needed to metaphorically tackle ideas of God and life-after-death notions of something that I knew in my head weren’t really real, but were necessary to the heart I possessed and its dire need for love and life and laughter.

And then too, I was seriously teaching myself to draw. And I drew things like nudes from pictures in National Geographic and Post magazines… but of course, only non-sexualized nudes like kids playing soccer in the nude and in the rain in a school yard in Indonesia so they don’t get their school uniforms soaked.

But what is Surrealism that I can accomplish it any way as an Art movement that is really probably in the past and not relevant to anything in the real world now? Well, what I always thought it was… was a way of seeing the world through a rose-colored lens of imagination (with flying purple jelly-bean spots in it). It is a way of taking my Mickey-and-Goofy strangeness and mixing it into the Donald-Duck Soup of Art. It is a way to simply be true to myself rather than the truth nature insists on putting in front of my face.

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Filed under artwork, humor, old art, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life, surrealism

Mickian Art…70’s Style

Most of my novel stories have lived in my head since the 1970’s. I began recording the ideas in a notebook that I called the libretto. I drew illustrations to solidify the characters and some of the plot elements in my mind. But the basic natures of the characters and the style of my artwork grew from these original artistical notations.

I got better at art over time. And the characters benefited from my teaching experience in that I was able to depict numerous characters with nuances and details gained from students and other people I hadn’t met yet when I drew these pictures. Dorin Dobbs, for instance, is based in large part on my eldest son, who wouldn’t be born for another 18 years when I drew these pictures (He’s the yellow-haired boy in both of the first two pictures.)

Francois, the singing sad clown from my book Sing Sad Songs, is based on a student from the 80’s who was actually Spanish speaking and of Mexican-American descent.

I drew this picture of him in 1976.

I taught the boy in 1983.

I wrote and published the book in 2018.

The inter-dimensional traveler, the Man-Cat, is an idea from a story I have not written yet, and probably never will.

Disney-Michael Stewart and his gang of Milk-Lovers is another story I haven’t written yet, and though more likely, is still probably a novel I will never get to.

Invisible Captain Dettbarn and Francois ended up in separate stories from this picture. The other three boys in the picture were babies or not yet born when their stories happen.

So, today was a chance to look at and re-evaluate the past. All of these drawings were done in the 1970’s. All I did was scan them with a good scanner and crop them a little to make them better compositions. And they allow me to keep track of where my mind has already been, that I might successfully chart the future of where it is going.

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Elsie the Cow

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I was a boy back when the milk man still came around in his blue-and-white panel truck delivering bottles of milk with Elsie the Cow on them.  I don’t remember clearly because I was only 4 years old back when I first became aware of being a boy in this world instead of being something else living somewhere else.

There were many things I didn’t know or understand back then.  But one thing I did know, was that I loved Elsie the Cow.  And why would a farm boy love a cartoon cow?  There were many not-so-sensible reasons.

For one thing, Elsie the Cow reminded me of June Lockhart, Lassie’s mom and the mom from Lost in Space.

Lassie’s Mom, June Lockhart


 It may be that June Lockhart’s eyes reminded me of Elsie’s eyes, being large, soul-full eyes with large black eye lashes.  It may be that she starred in a TV commercial for Borden’s milk in which Elsie winked at me at the end of the commercial.

Or maybe it was because Elsie had calves and was a mom.  And June Lockhart was Lassie’s mom and the mom of Will Robinson, so I associated both of them with my mom, and thus with each other.

      Elsie gave you milk to drink and was always taking care of  you in that way.  Milk was good for you, after all.  My own mom was a registered nurse.  So they were alike in that way too.

And she was constantly defending you against the bulls in your life.  She stood up to Elmer to protect her daughter more than once.  Of course, her son was usually guilty of whatever he was accused of, but she still loved him and kept Elmer from making his “hamburger” threats a reality.

And you can see in numerous ad illustrations that Elsie’s family were basically nudists.  Although she often wore an apron, she was bare otherwise.  And though her daughter often wore skirts and her son wore shorts, Elmer was always naked.  And that didn’t surprise me, because no cow I knew from the farm wore clothes either.  From very early in my life I was always fascinated by nakedness, and I would’ve become a nudist as a youngster if it hadn’t been soundly discouraged by family and society in general.

Proof that Elsie’s family lived the nude life.

Puppets from a Borden’s commercial

So there are many reasons why I have always loved Elsie the Cow.  And it all boils down to the love of drinking milk and that appealing cartoon character who constantly asked you to drink more.

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Filed under artwork, cartoon review, farm boy, foolishness, humor, nudes, old art, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Mickey is 561 & 1/2 Years Old

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Notice the white beard?  No, it is not really made of yarn and paste.  It means Mickey is old.

I was born in November of 1456.  That year Vlad the Impaler (yes, the guy who inspired Dracula) killed the Prince of Wallachia  and took over his throne, ruling the part of Eastern Europe that includes Transylvania.

Halley’s Comet made an appearance that year, just as it did the year Mark Twain was born, and well before Donald Trump became President of the United States.  Before even the comet itself was named by the Astronomer Halley.  So if it was truly an omen of the end of the world, it came more than 500 years too early.  Maybe that’s why it has to keep coming back around

The Ottoman Empire tried to march into Albania and take it over, but the outnumbered forces of Skanderbeg defeated them at the Battle of Oronichea, proving that bullies don’t always win.

And codpieces were in fashion, proving that men lack any sort of fashion-sense whether it was back then or even now, more than 500 years later.

 

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But, of course, you knew all of that without me telling you.  It was an eventful year.

So Mickey is now 561 and 1/2 years old.  You’d think by that age he’d have learned not to tell lies or exaggerate things by 500.  No such luck.  But perhaps I can explain how this particular purple hoo-haw came to be.

You see it began in a classroom back when I was about 40 years of age.  That’s right, in 1496.  I was lecturing young Will Shakespeare about not putting his name on other people’s writing (which was doubly ironic, because the plagiaristic lad would not be born himself until 1564).

Young Will responded, “You are old, Schoolmaster Mickey. Shouldn’t you have retired already?”

“Just how old do you think I am?” I responded.

“I dunno, seventy or eighty maybe.”

I practically wet myself from shock.  I have long looked older than my actual years.  But I never let a chance for a good comeback with a slow burning sizzle added to it.

“Well, actually, I am 540 years old.  I have been considering retirement for quite some time.”

“Really?” He looked shocked.  So, either he really believed me, as thirteen-year-old English students readily will, or he was a much better actor than he was an original author of school essays.

And ever since that fateful day, I have always exaggerated my age to sound truly impressive.  I even went back in time and did the math, figuring out what my birthday had to have been to make what I said to the class sound true.

Now, be warned, this is a story full of lies.  But as with any work of fiction, it does bear significant relationships to the truth.  I will leave it to you to try to discern what those relationships are.

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Making Metal Miniatures

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Being a sort of amateur artist with extremely artistical tendencies, I naturally love to paint. My daughter also likes to paint.  So one way to combine our love for sloshing colors on stuff with paint brushes with our love for playing nerdy role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons is to buy and paint our own miniatures to play with in the game.  I used to do this a lot when I was a single goofer with time and money on my hands, so I have boxes and boxes of painted little people and little critters made out of lead or pewter or plastic.

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When doing these dastardly deeds of nerdling paintery to little metal people, we have to choose how we are going to go about it.  Different paints work in different ways.  I like to use brightly colored enamels like the Testors stuff I have used since the 1960’s.  The Princess prefers acrylic because it is less permanently messy.  Once you laminate your fingertips with enamel, you have to wear blue and green and brown on your hands in school for most of a week as it wears off.  Acrylic is less socially mortifying, in that it is removed more easily as a water-based paint. Even after it dries on your hands, it still comes off with a little scrubbing and you don’t have to use turpentine.

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Finding new figures to paint is not as easy as it once was.  You used to be able to locate such things easily in the nearest comic book shop or game shop.  Hobby Lobby and Michael’s used to have sections where you could find the figures as well as the paints.  Now that those things are becoming extinct and increasingly rare, you have to take advantage of serendipity.  We discovered a magically preserved and timeless game shop in a dying mall next to the movie theater where we recently went to watch Jumanji.  I bought the elves above in that shop from the young elf running the place all by himself.  An elf bard with a fiddle and bow, and another elf with a crossbow.  I also found two exquisite sculpts of children which I haven’t even removed from the card yet.  All that is left to do now is argue over who is going to paint what.  And that can be a difficult thing.  I am older and cannier than her, but she outweighs me by ten pounds.  The decision has not been made yet.

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I am finishing this essay on painting nerdling painter-deeds with a look at two finished works from my glorious nerd-painting past.  Ganser the Wizard of Gansdorf is actually painted in acrylic, while Anya the Amazon is painted in enamel.  I did them both in the 1980’s.  We shall soon see if I can still do as good as I used to do.  And if the Princess can match me or surpass me.  It is not actually a contest, but I still hope I win.

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Angel Thinking

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Yes, you are about to read more Mickian nonsense about an agnostical atheist who believes angels are real.  Heck, I not only believe in angels, I am one.

The word itself comes from Biblical Greek where angelos was the word for messenger.  And because the pre-twelfth century translators of the Bible looked at the “el” part and thought of the Hebrew word that meant “God”, they used angel to mean a messenger from God.

Now, I am not being a sacrilegious atheist when I claim to be an angel.  That is mainly because I am not technically an atheist.  I do believe that a spiritual creative essence informs the universe, but I am actually an agnostic because that means I actually don’t know anything   “A” for “not” and “gnostic” for “a know-er of stuff”.   I am a teleological idiot because I actually don’t know anything about anything.  But I do have the ability to look at evidence, weigh it, and reach a logical conclusion about what is most probably true, and I firmly believe in that  only until more evidence comes along.  I believe that particular thinking process is what is known as science (at least until better evidence comes along).  So, scientifically considering the issue, I stupidly believe I am an angel.  I bring possible knowledge from God.

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Grandma Beyer used to have a picture like this in sepia tones on her bedroom wall in Mason City.  I studied that guardian angel picture for hours as a child.

Thinking about stuff hard enough gives you insight, at least if you don’t over-heat your brain with hard thinking and catch your hair on fire.  A lot of stuff has been happening that I have been thinking hard about.  Here are some examples.

  1. Donald Trump is proving to be a really epically bad president.
  2. There are multiple really epically bad hurricanes forming one after another in the Atlantic.
  3. The spell-checker on WordPress hates how I spell epically.
  4. A monster earthquake hit Mexico.
  5. The Bible has this book in it called Revelations that calls for bad weather and earthquakes and a battle called Armageddon that will bring an end to everything.
  6. Kim Jong Un is an epically bad leader in North Korea who has nukes.
  7. It is easy to see where the unavoidable conclusion is headed in angelic “message from God” terms.
  8. Satan was an angel too.

So, as an angel, here is what I believe God is saying;

“As human beings, we all need to learn to love one another more.  Love is the only answer that cures hate.”  – God (No, really, he said this to me!)

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Seriously.  We need to take the weather anomalies as a sign that the time for climate change denial is long over.  We need to work together with all people on the planet to lovingly change those things we do that have caused the crisis.  We need to lovingly make peace with North Korea.  Fighting them will only lead to the Biblical ending of the story coming to pass.   I have an anomalous agnostical faith that there is a lot of truth in the Christian Bible.  (The spell checker doesn’t like “agnostical” either.)  Loving other people besides ourselves and the people who know and love us is the only possible solution to the problems before us.

Of course, I am saying all this angelic crappola tongue-in-cheek because I am, after all, a humorist, and I agnostically don’t know anything at all.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t mean what I say.

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The Secret Gallery in Grandma’s Closet

After years of being stored away, I discovered that my mother had hidden a hoard of my old artworks in the upstairs closet in Grandma Aldrich’s house (now my parents’ house).

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This oil painting was done on an old saw blade at the request of my Grandpa Aldrich.  He wanted a farm painting on it, like the one he’d seen in a restaurant during a fishing trip in Minnesota.  I chose as the subject Sally the pig.  Sally was a hairlip piglet that had to be bottle fed and raised in a box by the stove until later in life she became a favorite pet.  Believe it or not, pigs are smarter than the family dog.  She became a pig you could ride.  And Grandma had taken a precious old photo of my mother and Uncle Larry riding the pig.  I used that photo to make this painting.  It was also the painting I wanted to find on this trip to Iowa.  Searching for it led to finding all the others.

These two are among the earliest paintings I did.  They were both done on canvases that I stretched over the frame myself in high school art class.  The purple one is a scene from Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream.  The blue one doesn’t have a title, but you can see what it is.  It is an ancient shibboleth water monster lurking under a dock, fishing for young boys to eat.

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This drawing was done on the front porch in the house in Rowan.  It would be years before mom framed it.  It is another example of what I could do as a high school kid.  In fact, I composed it from art-class sketches I did my senior year in school.

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The Boy in the Barn was painted on the remains of an old chalkboard that my sisters, brother, and I had used in grade school.

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Grandma Aldrich asked for this picture to hang over the sofa in the farmhouse living room.  It stayed there for many years.

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Great Grandma Hinckley passed away in 1980.  I created this portrait from a combination of photos and memory.  It was too good.  It was never hung anywhere because it always made her daughter, my Grandma Aldrich, tear up.

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This pencil drawing won a blue ribbon at the Wright County Fair in the late 70’s.

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This picture is called First Years are Hard Years.  It was painted in 1982 after my first year of teaching at the junior high school in Cotulla, Texas.   I painted mostly the good kids.  The girl on the lower right would later go on to become a teacher for our school district.  I can’t claim to be the one who inspired her, but she did make straight A’s in my class.

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This is called Beauty.  It is done in oil crayon on canvas.  I did it for my mother to hang in the hallway in the house in Taylor, Texas.

So, it turns out, I unearthed art treasures by searching for the one painting.

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