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.
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.
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.
There are many, many things I appreciate about other people’s artwork. It is not all a matter of envy or a desire to copy what they’ve done, stealing their techniques and insights for myself, though there is some of that. Look at the patterns Hergé uses to portray fish and undersea plants. I have shamelessly copied both. But it is more than just pen-and-ink burglary.
I like to be dazzled. I look for things other artists have done that pluck out sweet-sad melodies on the heartstrings of my of my artistically saturated soul. I look for things like the color blue in the art of Maxfield Parrish.
I love the mesmerizing surrealism of Salvador Dali.
I am fascinated by William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s ability to create photo-realistic and creamy-perfect nudes.
Basil Wolverton’s comic grotesqueries leave me stunned but laughing.
The dramatic lighting effects employed by Greg Hildebrandt slay me with beauty. (Though not literally. I am not bleeding and dying from looking at this picture, merely metaphorically cut to the heart.)
I even study closely movie-poster portraits like Bogart and Bergman in this Casablanca classic poster.
I could show you so many more art pieces that I dearly love to look at. But I will end with a very special artist.
This is the work of my daughter, Mina “the Princess” Beyer. Remember that name. She’s better than I am.
Today is a day I normally take it easy, relax a bit, and do some thinking and reflecting. On Simple Saturdays I simply post old artworks that I hadn’t thought of in a while. Now that I am going blind, losing the ability to travel, and possibly facing the last days of my life, it is important to pace myself and not rush anything. The finish line is near. And this race isn’t won by crossing the final line first.
Not all works of art are done with pen and ink, or colored pencil. Some require dolls and camera.
Some require camera and colored pencil.
Some pictures require a little Chopin in the background.
Is this both funny and creepy at the same time?
Sometimes the individual pictures I select seem somehow strange and off-kilter.
But mostly, I think, it’s just about the weird way my stupid old mind works.
Sometimes I just need to update my portfolio in the world of modern technology. Some of these images may be used in upcoming projects. Some are just attempts at restoring things from the past that may never be useful for anything, but that I still wish to preserve. So, all of these pictures, whether you have seen them here before or not, are fresh scans with better color, alignment, and scan quality. It has helped to update software on old machines.
I have always had very vivid dreams. This picture was inspired by one. I dreamed of being a seventh-grader going to school in lizard-person school on a dinosaur planet. And throughout the dream my classmates were threatening to eat me. Oh, and the clothes they are wearing in the picture were the school uniforms.
Of course, naked-in-school dreams are a common one. This picture is more of a naked-on-Main-Street dream.
The title of this post is a Shakespearian Hamlet phrase. The picture above is a detail from a dream about Shakespeare’s The Tempest dream.
That particular nightmare had Caliban in it.
Fairy tale dreams are much nicer. In this Sleeping Beauty dream, the monsters are tiny.
I also admit to having animated-cartoon-type dreams. The turtle-boy in front is from the actual dream. The rest of it is made up to fill in the background of the picture.
This dream was obviously inspired by a trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. I have both good dreams and nightmares. And all of it provides fodder to fuel pictures and stories, but not always in that order.
It is almost impossible to accurately draw from the future. One of the tests of good science fiction is how much of it finds its way into reality over time.
Computers and communicators and scanners and material printers are doing things daily now that were predicted as fantastical possibilities in the Star Trek episodes of the 1960’s.
Jules Verne’s novels predicted men walking on the moon and the existence of nuclear submarines patrolling the depths of the sea.
George Orwell predicted even worse things when it comes to government electronic surveillance and governmental control of everything they can take control of.
But it has never really been the future that my writing, as a fantasist/surrealist, has been about.
All of my writing is set either before the year 2000, or 3000 years in the future in the 51st Century and beyond. And all of the science fiction involved is really more about the past than it is even about the present. These drawings of the Civil War bugle boy and the Shakespearian portrait of Prospero, Ferdinand, and Miranda, were all drawn from either photos or paintings or woodcut prints from the distant past.
In my writing I don’t try to predict the future. I write about people who are basically the same now as they were in the 16th Century. In truth, only the costumes, props, and stage technology change over time. The actors in the great performance always play the same basic characters.
Today’s post is a look at artwork from various times in my life.
I will try to find some of my work in the media library for this blog that is even older than this first one. But I am combing the archive randomly, so that I need to date each one.
The first one is from around 1979, possibly ’78 or “80.
This was from before I became a teacher, but just after my arthritis helped me decide not to pursue cartooning as a career.
I was still in my 20’s when I drew this.
This next one is helpfully dated 1983. It is a portrait of my favorite kid in the first year I taught. He was in my class in the 1981-82 school year.
This one is from 1977, my junior year at Iowa State University, You can see that I was overly relying on profile views for faces on cartoon characters. An odd little weakness.
This one is from about 1992 when Jorge and his brothers, some real working caballeros, were in my classes.
This came from 1984.
This one 1978.
This picture was submitted to the adult division of the Art Contest at the Wright County Fair in 1978. I drew it on the front porch of the old house in Rowan, Iowa. It won the purple ribbon.
This was drawn in the Winter of 1980 when I had to read David Copperfield as one of the works responded to on the 1981 English Masters’ Ecam.
If I searched longer I could probably find the pictures I previously posted on this blog from when I was twelve years old. Those are about the oldest artworks I still possess. But what would it show anyway? You can see my work got a little better over time, but not much, and lately arthritis took away some of my skills.
This is an illustration that goes along with my first good published novel, Catch a Falling Star. I don’t talk about that novel in this blog very much anymore since, in order to actually promote that novel, I am under contract to have to spend hundreds of dollars more to use one of their many expensive promotional packages to get this “award winning” novel promoted in the way the publisher thinks it deserves. I wanted to use a picture like this for the cover of the book. They rejected that. Instead they gave me a silhouette picture of a girl flying a kite at night. That, of course, has nothing to do with the novel inside the book. These two, by contrast, are two of the most important characters from the book, both of them aliens. Farbick is the competent space pilot who gets himself shot and captured during the failed invasion of Earth. Davalon is the marooned tadpole, Telleron child, who gets himself adopted by a childless Earth couple. I definitely like my picture better than the one I got stuck with.
This picture is called, “Long Ago It Might Have Been.” It is a picture I drew in the late eighties, after my girlfriend/Reading-teacher colleague took a job in San Antonio and left me behind. Honestly, she wanted to marry me, and I never got around to telling her that the reason our love life was so difficult was because I had been sexually assaulted as a child, and though I was attracted to her, I hadn’t truly healed enough at that point to become a husband and father. I never told her about my terrible secret. She left. She got married and had more than one blond-haired little girl that probably looked just like her. The boy in this picture looks like a young me with blond hair. He wears a baseball jacket of the St. Louis Cardinals, my favorite team. He’s the child that might’ve been, if only I had grown to adulthood a little sooner.
This picture is even harder to explain without me looking like a real fool. After all, if you are a real fool, it’s rather hard to hide that fact. In that last picture, I depicted something that related to one of the two girlfriends that I had to juggle at the same time back in the eighties. You see, I had set my heart on winning over Mary Ann whom I had worked with in the same classroom as she was the teacher’s aide assigned to the Chapter I remedial program I was teaching. She’s the girlfriend I took on visits to the Austin area on weekends. She had a sister in Austin, the one who lived in the nudist apartment complex, where she stayed during those visits. My parents lived in Taylor, Texas at the time, a nearby suburb. We dated regularly. She knew my terrible secret. She was a divorcee and I knew her terrible secrets as well. Ginger, on the other hand, was looking for a mate, and she lived in the apartment next door. She’s the one who would’ve hopped into bed with me anytime I asked. And she made no bones about wanting me to be hers. Needless to say, I could’ve written a TV sitcom about the majority of my love-life back then. It could’ve starred Jack Ritter as me. And I ended up with neither of those two young ladies. The picture, of course. is in honor of the kids in the eighties calling my classroom Gilligan’s Island because they thought I looked like the Gilligan actor, Bob Denver.
This is, of course, a portrait of Millis the rabbit in his accelerated-evolution form as a rabbit-man from my novel The Bicycle-Wheel Genius. That book, obviously, is a science-fiction comedy with a lot of unexpected plot twists. But the story behind the picture is one of a boyhood spent as a town kid in a farm-town community. Unlike the other kids in the Iowa Hawkeyes 4-H club, I couldn’t raise a calf or a pen of hogs as my 4-H club project. So, instead, I got in as a keeper of rabbits. Of my two original rabbits, a buck and a doe, I had a black one and a white one. The white one was a New Zealand White, a purebred white rabbit with red eyes, because the entire breed was albino. I called the white rabbit, the buck, Ember-eyes because his eyes glowed like fire in the night under the flashlight beam. The doe was a black rabbit I called Fuzz. Out of the first litter of babies Fuzz had, eight of the ten were white And of the two black babies, one died in the nest, and the other passed away shortly after he got big enough to determine that he was a male rabbit. I won’t go into how you determine the sex of a juvenile rabbit. So, almost all of the rabbits I raised before I discovered what a Dutch-belted rabbit was, were white with red eyes.
So, it is my thesis for today that every picture I make has some kind of story behind it. It may be totally boring, but still technically a story. So, there.