Tag Archives: portraits

Novel Ways to Make a Portrait

As both an artist and a writer I portray people I have known. I can also say that I have portrayed people I love, but that is rather redundantly repetitive because I basically love all people, even the really nasty ones who hate me in return.  It’s a teacher thing.  But portraits as a writer/artist/cartoonist/fool is not a straightforward thing.  Let me start by unpacking my portraits of the Cobble Sisters.  Sherry and Shelly Cobble are twin sisters.  They are in several of my YA novels about the little town in rural Iowa where I grew up.

Sherry Cobble22

They are nudists.  That means their family believes there are health benefits to not wearing any clothes when they are at home or spending private time with the rest of their family and friends.  I can claim that they are based on real people, because they are, but that takes considerable explaining.

16750_102844486407850_100000468961606_71386_6774729_n

                                                                                                                                                                             Sherry Cobble

I have a pair of identical twin cousins who I grew up with and learned about the unique things twin share from them.  But the Cobble Sisters are not a direct portrait of them.  They are not nudists.  And they would probably beat me to a pulp if I dared to insist that they were.

The nudist/naturists I once knew and lived near were in Iowa City where I went to grad school (and where I found the original model for the picture), and in Austin, Texas where my girlfriend’s sister was living in a clothing-optional apartment complex.  My parents lived in an Austin suburb and when my girlfriend and I visited the area in the 80’s, I stayed at my parents’ home and she stayed at the crazy communal resort for naked people where her sister lived.  This situation provided the background for the embarrassment humor in my novel Superchicken.   That’s the story that includes an episode where the main character is tricked into going to a nudist camp as a guest with the Cobble family.  Poor Superchicken didn’t realize until he got there that it was a place where you have to take off all your clothes to blend in.

Supe n Sherry_n

Which leads quite naturally into the second portrait I want to talk about.  Edward-Andrew Campbell is called “the Superchicken” by his friends in Norwall, Iowa.  That nickname is actually my nickname from high school.  It comes from part of the George of the Jungle Saturday morning cartoon show by Jay Ward (Rocky and Bullwinkle’s creator).

The nickname was hung on me by a girl I had a huge crush on from grade school through junior high.  Superchicken in the cartoon show was this mild-mannered chicken who could gain super powers by drinking super sauce and then fight crime.  She obviously thought I was full of hidden talents just like him.

So Superchicken is a me character.

But the picture is not me drawing myself as a boy.  It is modeled on my young second cousin who was my little buddy for the last two years of high school and during my first couple of years in college.  The portrait in the novel, however, is part me and part a student from my early years as a teacher.  The Anita Jones portrait is drawn from a Sears catalog model, while the real girl was the most popular girl in my grade at school,  I wasn’t the only boy hopelessly in love with her.

Finally, since I am well over the word-count target already, I want to talk about the portrait of the main character in my novel about to be published, Miss Francis Morgan.

On the left you see who Francis really was.  Mother Mendocino was born to be a teacher, and it is her natural-born love of teaching and rapport with kids that I am portraying in the novel.  In the novel, though, everything that happens in that classroom was really something that happened in my classroom, not hers.  Especially the invasion of the classroom by three-inch tall fairies.  But it should also be obvious that Miss Morgan is not a portrait of me.  I am not female.  I could never respond to and touch kids the way she does because our society frowns on that from male teachers.  And further, she is not Hispanic because the novel is set in 1990’s Iowa rather than the deep South Texas town where these things happened.  So I based the drawing on another teacher I knew from Iowa, one that had always been the next door neighbor girl when I was a kid.  She babysat me and was older than me.

So, my portrait art that I am mangling the discussion of in this post is made up mostly of amalgamated portraits.  A little of this person added to a lot of that one, with a sprinkle of me mixed in for goof-factor effect.  The novel Magical Miss Morgan is being edited by Page Publishing as I write this and will be available soon.  I am hoping that a few of you may be foolish enough to buy one and read it.   I truly believe in my goofy old heart that you will like it.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under artwork, characters, goofy thoughts, humor, irony, novel plans, Paffooney

Making Portraits

scan0005

My biggest regret as a cartoonist and waster of art supplies is the fact that I am not the world’s best portrait artist.  I can only rarely make a work of art look like a real person.  Usually the subject has to to be a person I love or care deeply about.  This 1983 picture of Ruben looks very like him to me, though he probably wouldn’t recognize himself here as the 8th grader who told me in the fall of 1981 that I was his favorite teacher.  That admission on his part kept me from quitting and failing as a first year teacher overwhelmed by the challenges of a poor school district in deep South Texas.

scan0006

My Great Grandma Hinckley was really great.

My great grandmother on my mother’s side passed away as the 1970’s came to an end.  I tried to immortalize her with a work of art.  I drew the sketch above to make a painting of her.  All my relatives were amazed at the picture.  They loved it immensely.  I gave the painting to my Grandma Aldrich, her second eldest daughter.  And it got put away in a closet at the farmhouse.  It made my grandma too sad to look at every day.  So the actual painting is still in a closet in Iowa.

scan0007

There were, of course, numerous students that made my life a living heck, especially during my early years as a teacher.  But I was one of those unusual teachers (possibly insane teachers) who learned to love the bad kids.  Love/hate relationships tend to endure in your memory almost as long as the loving ones.  I was always able to pull the good out of certain kids… at least in portraits of them.

dscn4715

When kids pose for pictures, they are not usually patient enough to sit for a portrait artist.  I learned early on to work from photographs, though it has the disadvantage of being only two-dimensional.  Sometimes you have to cartoonify the subject to get the real essence of the person you are capturing in artiness.

But I can’t get to the point of this essay without acknowledging the fact that any artist who tries to make a portrait, is not a camera.  The artist has to put down on paper or canvas what he sees in his own head.  That means the work of art is filtered through the artist’s goofy brain and is transformed by all his quirks and abnormalities.  Therefore any work of art, including a portrait that looks like its subject, is really a picture of the artist himself.  So, I guess I owe you some self portraits to compare.

20160424_180408

Yeah, that’s me at 10… so what?

Leave a comment

Filed under art criticism, artwork, autobiography, humor, kids, Paffooney, self portrait, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Portraits in Pen and Ink

Simple, clean lines and basic, well-defined shapes go together in black and white.  They are in the basic nature of being a cartoonist.  You translate what you see into line drawings where a few simple lines become a complex and meaningful image.

20160424_180115

My one-legged Batman is an exercise in  foreshortening and trying to burst through the two-dimensional confines of the page to grab the viewer.  I learned this trick from comic book artist Jim Lee.

20160424_180126

His sidekick is rendered as a static portrait where the computer monitor in front of him lights up Robin’s intense and thoughtful face.

20160211_202213

She was an excellent teacher and former nun… she was a mentor to me, taught me a lot about life and love and great beauty.  How do you adequately portray the wisdom and the patience in those highly magnified eyes?  I drew from memory only.  She never considered herself beautiful.  But she was.  And it hurts not to be able to capture it correctly.

Not every portrait is literal.  Sometimes you exaggerate facial characteristics and behavioral quirks are emphasized to create humor in the portrait.

20160424_181045

When I was first married I did a double portrait of us as a knight and his lady fair.  I know, I know… it is so sickeningly sweet that it punches me right in the diabetes.  But, hey, it doesn’t really look like me anyway.   It is more of a portrait of Porky Pig in glasses and hair.

20160223_212420

There is an art to pen and ink that cuts right to the heart of who you are and who you want to be.  Simple lines in black and white… there is no more incisive tool for putting my goofy old mind down on paper.

Leave a comment

Filed under artwork, cartoons, goofy thoughts, humor, pen and ink