I finished it in black and white. I know it doesn’t make sense as a whole, but it is surrealism, and it is supposed to be cut up into separate parts, as I will show you later.
Tag Archives: surrealism
What is the meaning of the naked piano player? Remember the naked guy playing at the beginning of episodes of Monty Python’s Flying Circus? I had a friend who painted a naked boy playing piano in high school art class. He was a band geek. He later proved to be gay. I asked him why he painted that. He said, “That’s me being creative.”
My oldest son is now in the Marine Corp boot camp at San Diego. He says in his first letter home that things are going great. He was a self-taught piano player. He played beautiful music, including classical pieces by Mozart, by ear. He even composed his own music. That was him being creative. So, why did he want to become a Marine and be regimented and told what to do?
Before I started this crazy naked-piano-player drawing, I had a dream. I was performing in front of an audience, naked. I should’ve been embarrassed out of my old mind. But I wasn’t. I think it was because that was me being creative. Sometimes total randomness and surprise is creativity. Definitely being completely open and honest with the audience, being naked, if you will, is being creative.
So here is the start of another colored pencil Paffooney project. I think I will call it, “Baring the Creative Soul.”
I will keep you posted on my colored-pencil progress. This is just the initial sketch in graphite. It does not mean I am contemplating learning piano, or deciding I have suddenly become gay after 57 years. It means, “This is me being creative.”
My homage to “the Ghost Who Walks” was carefully chosen. I scanned my Phantom comics from Charleton looking for the right pose. I found an image of him punching toward the viewer. I thought, “Why don’t I put that view on horseback and have him riding toward me and punching.” Why did I think that? Who knows? As an artist, I’m kinda erratic and crazy that way. I guess that’s why I claim to be a surrealist. I do believe all comic book artists have to be surrealists to do their job. That’s true whether they do super heroes, ducks who hoard money in vaults and wear spats, pigs who wear a coat and a tie but no pants, or alien monsters hungry for the nearly naked flesh of Dale Arden. Uh… maybe I’m revealing way too much about my thought processes here… So here’s step one, the pen and ink.
Then I had to give it some colored pencil treatments. Black and white with crosshatching is cool, but it is also like bare bones, without life and energy. So I used the powers I have over cheap Roseart pencils and madly scribbled in colors carefully balanced to show just how truly chaotic my perceptions of action and adventure really are.
Now, I know the Phantom’s horse is either black or pure white, depending on which version or generation of the Ghost Who Walks is being depicted, but I did a yellow horse. I know… I know… I did pansy colors when I really should’ve gone fire red or all bloody crimson. I’m completely violating continuity. But I never completely do what I intend to do. If I don’t screw it up at least a little bit, then it really isn’t me. Besides, what else is there to yell at myself about and twist words around to make it sound like I’m being all comedically gifted and funny?
Yes, I think I was born entirely in the wrong time. I could’ve been a great pulp fiction cover artist. Of course, I would’ve done great work and starved to death, because that’s what most of them did. It was, however, a time when art was blazing with brightly-colored surrealism. I was inspired by the artwork in this book; Pulp Culture, the Art of Fiction Magazines by Frank Robinson and Lawrence Davidson.
I used to find secret treasures like this in my Uncles’ bedroom when I played there at Grandpa’s house in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. They were full of cowboys with sixguns, pirates and skeletons, poisonous snakes, nearly nude ladies, and science fiction heroes from the future. So I decided to create one of my own.
What’s it all about? Surrealism’s quest to make life more like art. Pretty heroines can strike back at the heart of evil with goodness, and sweetness, and most importantly, nearly nakedness. We can skew the future by applying the wisdom learned in the past. You know, pure unadulterated fantasy. And hopefully we will be making a skew towards goodness and the light, not darkness and evil.
Sometimes you just have to put together something crazy. This is a combination of colored pencil, ceramic egg-man painted with acrylic, and a photoshopped photo. Definitely a looney Paffooney.
William Blake is a favorite poet of mine because he had a super-vivid imagination and he was basically loonier than pig who wears a bow tie and coat, but no pants… and eats bacon. He could look at a cloud, and he claimed that he could see the entire heavenly host arrayed there. He believed in free love and open marriage, but was strictly faithful to his one beloved wife. Contradictions are what makes him who he is. His book Songs of Innocence and Experience, an early independently published book full of poetry and artwork, contains the poem about the Tyger (Blake’s personal misspelling) that inspired the Paffooney presented here. The Tyger represents danger… rather than evil… and the danger inherent in God’s creation rather than the devil or Satan. The poem is often paired with the poem about the Lamb, or the poem about the Worm. Opposition. Juxtaposition. The very essence of surrealism. So, I have tried to place a certain amount of menace in innocence in opposition to each other in this drawing.
Here is a study in Looniness… I have always wondered where the edge is… the border between silly, cute, and creepy. I believe I have found it with this bizarro character study. I attempted to add to the effect by making characters seem unbalanced, off kilter, and even growing out of other characters’ ears. The background pulls at your perceptions and senses as much as the primary objects do. And so… I pull a Salvador Dali with a mixed bag of Dr. Seuss, Disney, and Warner Brothers. Melting and fused toons in place of watches and human bodies. If this isn’t surreal, then I don’t know what is. Okay, I admit it. I don’t know what is!
I was always the one on the outside looking in. The sad fact is, all of us who are too creative and sensitive for our own good feel that way. We wish we had what see in there, but miss the beauty inherent in being on the outside. Stalker… peeping faun… magical wishes… and dreams in the dark blue of the night.
(This, dear viewer, is called “Portrait from the Jungle”. Three images from 1980 magazines put together in a surrealist manner. It’s intentionally kinda creepy… that is of course why there is a chicken in it. Chickens creep me out.)
The Surrealist Manifesto ; or Why I have to Juxtapose Silly Stuff to Make Meaning by Mishmashing
To begin with, you have to picture me as a seventeen-year-old geeky kid in High School Art Class in 1974. Yes, I was four-eyed, but not with the cool round granny glasses, but the black horn-rims that were not only cheaper, but much more dramatically out of date and out of favor with my peers. I was a participant in Art 3, a class that meant I was an Art nerd for the third time in only three years of high school. Yes, I could draw well, and all the girls cooed in their sexy cheerleader voices, “Ooh, I just hate you because you can draw so darn good.” And I would blush because it sounded like praise, even though you may notice they actually said they hated me.
Now that you have that awful image foremost in the inner eye of imagination, I can reveal that that was the year I discovered the work of Salvador Dali. Yes, that’s right, the dumb old melted watches guy with the handlebar mustache that looked like he’d taken a pencil sharpener to both ends. The melted watches, naked people with all their parts grotesquely stretched out and draped over stuff, and a soft sculpture that would thoroughly disgust anybody with baked beans scattered all around the foreground. These were the elements of what was called the surrealist movement. Surrealism, according to the all-knowing Wikipedia, is filled with the element of surprise, unexpected juxtaposition, and non sequitur. Silly old Andre Breton, the founder and chief sayer-of-what-is-true about surrealism, said that first of all it is a revolutionary movement. Now, I grew up in a determinedly Republican and conservative household in North Central Iowa. I had to look up juxtaposition in the dictionary just to know what the heck they were talking about. Back then, of course, I used Webster’s, not Wikipedia. I stood to lose significant portions of the hide on my behind if my family discovered I was using my swiftly enlarging and apparently all-knowing high school brain to investigate revolutionary ideas! In fact, if I had realized that political surrealism had an affinity for both Freud and Communism, I probably would have closed the book on it myself. Still, I was swept away.
I entered college a few years later convinced that my revolutionary art ideas were going to galvanize the world around me, that world being Cow College, otherwise known as Iowa State University. I was going to revolutionize the novel form by writing everything about my little home town in Iowa and doing it in full color, comic book style panel cartoons. My heroes would be small town people who took on the greatest of all issues in modern life and tackled them so brilliantly that it would create world peace, make universal happiness without the use of drugs, and be such great art that it would put my name in the art books right beside Salvador and Rene Magritte. People would be studying my work for years to come.
This was the point in life in which I created some of my best characters, the Bicycle-Wheel Genius who shunned modern technology and created his own pedal-powered helicopter, the hippy hobo who wore a coat of many colors sewn together from pieces of patchwork quilts and ultimately knew the most important secrets of life, the universe, and everything, and of course, the numerous fools and clowns that would put Shakespeare’s Touchstone, Falstaff, and Bottom to shame. I was going to revolutionize story-telling in cartoons!
As you know, someone else invented the graphic novel. I don’t even know for sure that I had the idea first. Probably not. And, with my lifetime of luck reminiscent of Joe Btfsplk, I developed arthritis at the age of 18 and had to curb my obsession with drawing comics.
So, a thirty year career as a middle school and high school English teacher taught me that life is a series of surprises, juxtapositions of an unexpected variety, and non sequiturs. Where had I heard that before? Ah, yes! I had realized that life is an exercise in surrealism. Therefore, now that I am finally on track to become the story-teller that I set out to be, I will be a surrealist. I will take the surreal bull by his electric pink and curly-cued horns and say, “Whoa, kitty-kitty, don’t permafrost this old wombat!” Why will I say that? Is it to be a surrealist like Dali? Heavens to murgatroid, Baba Louie! Of course it is!