Today’s post is full of portraits of imaginary people. Some of these are based on real people who posed for them or I had a photo of. Others, even if they are based on characters who were once real people I knew, are entirely made up out of my head.
There was a rollerskating rink in the little town of Lake Cornelia in Iowa from the 1940’s until the 1980’s. The first time I went there as a ten-year-old learning to roller-skate for the very first time, I spent the entire time cleaning the dusty floor with the knees and seat of my pants. My parents could both skate with fantastic ease. Dad could even skate backwards. During the couples’ skate, when they turned the lights down and turned on the blinking colored lights, they didn’t merely skate, they danced in circles around the rink.
But I wanted desperately to skate like that. We went numerous times to that same rink that Summer of 1967. The second time I went there I had spent a couple of nights dreaming of myself successfully skating. And practicing in my dreams apparently worked. I could skate the complete oval of the rink, and I only fell down three times the entire couple of hours we were there. We went to the A&W drive-in for root beers to celebrate afterwards.
We kept skating and I kept improving. In 1969 the song “Sugar, Sugar” was a number one hit. It played at least five times a trip to the skating rink, often during the couples’ skate. That Cornelia skating rink was the place where I skated hand in hand with a girl during the couples’ skate for the very first time. To that song, of course.
That rink was also the site of my worst embarrassment in junior high school. I fell because of a dreaded gum-wad on the floor and split the inseam of my pants from the crotch all the way down the right leg. When I got up, the girl I had a crush on and three of her female friends got a good look at my fruit-of-the-looms. Strangely, nobody made fun of me for it afterwards. The rink manager came up with enough safety pins to hold my pants together for the remaining hour of skate time. Embarrassed within an inch of my life being over, I was still not going to miss out on skating-time,
I hadn’t thought about skating in long time. I am not able to do it anymore with arthritis in my knees and feet. But this old colored-pencil drawing of a girl I once adored on roller skates brought the memory of it back again. It is a permanent part of who I am. A core memory. A foundation-stone in the edifice of Mickey-ness.
And a picture I have made with the story that goes along with it is what a Paffooney is. If you want to see more examples of Paffoonies I have created, you can do a Google picture-search of “Beyer Paffooney” and you will see a lot of them, mostly linked directly back to this blog. It is word I invented that nobody else is using (as far as I know), and so, it functions as a sort of magic word for my silly little blog.
What’s the real reason behind the choices I make as an artist? For instance, why didn’t I do this photo of the artwork over again when the wind warped the bottom left corner. That answer is simple. I was taking this picture with natural sunlight. And once the wind started messing up my pictures, it only got worse. This was the first and best of five attempts. And, while it doesn’t show up here, I did several photo-shop manipulations of this picture, including shrinking the girl’s head. The original was done from a couple of models I got consent from when I worked at a daycare center in Iowa City where I went to college. The boy was eight years old in the summer of 1980. The girl was six, but I used a photo of a girl I went to second grade with, so the head was also eight. They represent David Copperfield and Emily, Pegotty’s niece from the Dickens novel. I had to read the book for my Master’s Exam which I took instead of writing a thesis. The picture is about how I saw myself and my world in that timeless novel.
This picture won a blue ribbon in the art competition at the Wright County Fair in 1979. It is a colored-pencil cartoon situation right out of a Jay Ward, Dudley Do-Right cartoon. I used a picture from a Canadian travel ad for the Mountie. The Indian sidekick is a modified version of Little Beaver, Red Ryder’s sidekick. The villain and the girl were basically Snidely Whiplash and Nell from the Dudley Do-Right cartoons, but made to look slightly more realistic… but only very slightly.
Actually, I lied a bit about the blue ribbon. I got the purple Grand Champion ribbon for this picture. I had entered it solely because two years before I saw how easy it would be to win a purple ribbon looking at the pictures that won it, and I wanted to win the purple ribbon. Sorry I lied, but the real reason for this picture is that I wanted to win that ribbon.
This painting, from the 1990s, was an attempt to make sofa art to sell in my sister-in-law’s home décor store. So, the real reason for this painting’s existence is greed. But since I ended up putting so many hours into it that I couldn’t justify selling it for twenty dollars in a store that went out of business because nobody ever shopped there, I got far more value out of it by keeping it and enjoying it myself. It was inspired by numerous paintings of Native Americans done by white people on display in Love’s Travel Stops across Texas in the 1990s.
This picture, “That Night in Saqqara,” is about youth versus age, thinking about death, immortality, and being afraid of any or all of it. The model for the Mummy is Boris Karloff who was so nice to pose for a production still from his movie that I could draw him long after he was actually dead. The boy was a seventh-grader in 1983 who did not actually pose for this without a shirt on or with an actual Ankh life-symbol around his neck. The Pharaoh in the tomb-mural in the background was from National Geographic Magazine, and I think was supposed to be Tutankhamun, but I could be wrong. I am old and I mix up lots of things I once clearly knew. That’s what mummified brains have to be like, apparently.
The reason I had to create this artwork was because I was increasingly falling victim to illness, especially arthritis, and I was constantly thinking about what it would be like to die alone, entombed in a two-bedroom apartment on North Stewart Street in Cotulla, Texas. This was well before I met and married my wife, who is now my wife of 25 years.
Lately I have been having problems with passing out during low blood-sugar moments in the middle morning, early afternoon, and shortly after supper, usually when I have already had a snack and my sugars haven’t balanced yet. When I pass out, perchance… I dream. Vivid dreams. So, for art day, I will post images I have made based on dreams I have had.
This one has shadows on everything. I exhausted three pens drawing shadows. Yet, there are no shadows on the child-figures. In the dream, they were glowing white ghosts.
Snowboy is one of the main villains in The Bicycle-wheel Genius. But the boy-robot made entirely of snow, ice, and circuitry first appeared in a 1978 dream that happened while I had a fever from the flu.
This dream is a mental-disturber caused again by fever. Here the two gigantic toys play with the little girl. I was not actually in this dream. I was an observer floating above. I think the bear was inspired by a Care-Bear.
This picture has all the elements of the actual dream, the candle, the line of glowing pixies, the sleeping princess, and Prince Charming. But nothing here looks like it did in the dream. The prince and the princess were both young teens that I did not know in real life. The fairies were larger and a lot more obviously nude.
I actually passed out while writing this post. It happened right here, before I could post this dream of living colors. All the colors were in motion in the dream, something I couldn’t really represent here.
I knew when I dreamed this dream that the Bambi-kin in this dream were members of my family, but at the time I dreamt it I had not met my wife yet, let alone had three kids of my own. Yet I knew that it was not my family at the time of the dream because one of my sisters was not there.
This is from a dream I had in college at Iowa City. I made an entire cartoon out of it called Babysitters Hate My House, It is about a babysitter having a horrible time with my two sons as she loses control when they show her the man in the basement that, “Daddy built out of a kit.”
And, finally, this dream featured not only the spirit stag and the medicine man, but the bolt of lightning in the background. The Dakotah people say having a dream with lightning in it makes you a “lightning dreamer”, a magic man, or a shaman. So, I guess that qualifies me to be one.