If you didn't get enough about me here, there is my personal website with a brief life history and a slideshow about a friend who built a geodesic dome. Don't miss my recollections of my time in New York City working for Time Magazine.
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Recently, I scanned a whole bunch of drawings by my friend, Johnny Meah. These represent sketches and drawings made over many years. Some were done in preparation for making banners, some were proposals for projects. Since he is putting these drawings up for sale, I thought it might be wise to scan them as a permanent record. Click on the closeup of one of the drawings (left) to see an example of the fine details contained in these drawings.
Owning one of these drawings is a great way to collect this genre of art. Trying to find a full size banner (if you can find one that is authentic) can be very expensive (in the thousands of dollars).
I created a slideshow so that people could see the drawings in low-resolution. You can see it here. You will find lots of interesting typography, figurative drawing and some humor. You will also find some interesting insights into the creative process.
If you would like more information on how to purchase one of these great drawings, contact Johnny for more information.
When I was about 14, my parents let me go with them to the movies to see a foreign film, something quite out of the ordinary at that time. It was a small theater in a nearby shopping mall. I don’t remember the feature film, but I remember very well the short that came before it. It was “Day Of The Painter”. Over the years I’ve told people about it. Now that I’m going to make a film about an artist making a painting I began to search for it in earnest, hoping to get another look at it. Turns out, a lot of other people also have fond memories of it and would also like to see it again. Despite the fact that it won an Acedemy Award, this is one hard movie to find. Just do a Google search and you will see all the people that have left messages over the years asking where they can find a 16mm or VHS (!) copy. The last post I saw was from a relative of the filmmaker who says he has recovered the original 16mm print and will have it digitized but copies will only be available for family members.
I would like to go on record here while I’m still alive. If people want to see my work, let ‘em. Don’t hide it or hoard it. Make money with it… get it out there!
It is always interesting to visit with my friend and neighbor, Johnny Meah. I find I enjoy the company of artists… always have and I don’t know why.
I seem to have become Johnny’s ad hoc photographer. This is kind of funny because I worked for Adolph Studly, a New York City photographer of art and architecture, when I was in high school (see page I wrote about my experiences with Studly elsewhere in this blog). I offered my services when I heard about Johnny’s latest project–turning a discarded guitar into a work of art!
I’ll try to fill in some backstory as best I can. Seems that a person on a tour of the Martin Guitar factory noticed a pile of guitars that appeared to have been discarded or rejected. They were told that the pile would be put through a wood chipper to make sure they would never be sold since they didn’t meet the rigorous standards of excellence imposed by the manufacturer. Somehow this individual came up with the idea that they be distributed to various artists who would turn the guitar into a work of art to be displayed and later auctioned off with a portion of the proceeds going to charity. Martin liked the idea apparently and “green-lighted” the project. Johnny was one of the artists chosen to receive a guitar. I asked if he would call me the day he was going to ship it out and I took these photos. I’m not too happy with the quality of the photos… I needed an assistant with a reflector… and how about one of those huge scrims overhead? That would have helped.
Make sure to click on the photos for a larger view. There is a bit of trompe l’oeil in use and some other funny touches and jokes thrown in. These guitars will be on display at the Martin factory later this year.
I was working late at my hangar/workshop at the Leesburg (JYO) airport. I had the door wide open to invite some cool night air into my workspace. As I remember, I was taking a break with my feet up when a man approached quietly, out of the darkness. I guess it was the Questair Venture under construction that caught his eye. He asked some questions and we talked for a bit before he vanished into the darkness from where he came. It was only later that I came to realize who he was and what an important person in my life he would become.
After that “Field of Dreams” encounter, Scott became a regular visitor to my hangar… as did many others who owned a condo hangar at that airport. I was the long standing “mayor” (president of the condo association) and “regular” at the airport. For eleven years I toiled on a project that was always just a little over the edge of my ability. Scott was always helpful and more than one time, observed me struggling to make a part I needed only to show up the next day–part in hand–made in his shop at home. We would often have lunch in Leesburg at an Italian deli where he would be able to sneak some “bad” food. I had lots of questions for him about the early days of the space program and he never tired of answering them and telling interesting stories. He was a walking encyclopedia of information, engineering equations, specifications and if he didn’t know it off the top of his head, he would have the answer the next day or by telephone that night.
When Scott lost his medical temporarily, he asked me if I would act as co-pilot from time to time. I accepted without hesitation… more time to ask questions and learn. We would visit his family and friends across the country and I would be able to listen to his presentations, sit in on meetings with educators, award presentations and other events. He would always make sure that I was seated at any dinner table to which he was invited and that I always had proper accomodations. Scott prefered to fly solo though, so when he got his medical back, I rarely was able to get back into N6579X. He did take me up one day for some practice though. After looking over the airplane I was building he commented that the only airplane he ever flew that had a narrower CG range was the Bell X-4. I think he believed that a low time pilot like myself would likely stall and be killed. So off we went to practice “falling leaf” maneuvers. His C210 shook badly while I struggled to keep it right side up. I finally seemed to get the hang of it and we returned to base (JYO). After examining the airplane Scott found that we had shaken so much some battery acid had splashed out and we had to do a bit of a cleanup.
Whenever I would see him come back from a flight, I would walk over to say hello and help him push back. He had a little game he played with the fuel truck guys. They would always be there within a few minutes to top-off the Cessna and they would ask how many gallons it would take. He would think for a minute and give them a number. Sure enough, just about every time he was within a half gallon or so.
I was stunned when he announced to me his decision to move to Manassas Airport. The reason may provide some insight into Scott’s belief that he would be flying for many years to come. You see, the lease of the land upon which our condo hangars sit comes up for renewal in the year 2012. At that time the town of Leesburg must renew for another ten years if the Condo Association is not in default in our rent payments to the town… which we certainly will not be. Scott was so worried about the slight chance that he would lose his hangar in 2012 or for certain in 2022 that he moved to Manassas where he would have a full 40 year lease. I hope when I get to that age, I will be equally optimistic about my longevity.
When traveling with Scott, the thing that surprised me most was his activities surrounding his annual teacher award. I had the priviledge of attending one of the award ceremonies where he was on the dais with Hoot Gibson. Until that day, I didn’t really realize how important this was to both Scott and the teachers. The fact that he gave of his time and money to such a cause was remarkable. Scott refused to cash-in in any way from his fame. He was truly humble and generous and passionate about aviation and education. When asked by an audience member at the award meeting, who were the four most influential people in his life, he rattled off his four elementary school teachers with the ease that he would say what he just had for breakfast. The crowd went wild… they were all teachers themselves and I admit, it choked me up a bit.
It was December of 1970 that I hit New York. I had just had an action packed year of crazy experiences in Toronto after graduation from college. I was kind of burned out, not to mention broke. Before leaving Toronto, I paid $200 for a brutally sodomized Chevy Van that had a good motor, but that was about it. It ran well, but nothing worked on it except those bare necessities that were required to pass inspection in Ontario. I’m not even sure what color it was other than rust with a little primer here and there. See for yourself in this picture.
My friend Rory and I drove it to New York and found an apartment that had just been vacated by a fellow named Ed Sanders who led a rock group called the “Fugs“. It was on Avenue A in the lower east side of Manhattan.
The wild ride was to continue for some time in NYC, mostly driven by Rory who was afraid of nothing. It was fun, but I knew there was a different life that was better and I had to find it. My parents had taken great care and made great sacrifices to give me the knowledge and education I needed to take control of my life.
In the fifteen years that followed, I had made a lot of changes. I found a way to make money through honest work and without exploiting people. I was able to get a new car and an airplane to go along with it. I also got a much nicer apartment and a bed with a mattress.
I was happy then and I’m happy now.
What ever happened to the Chevy Van? After accumulating lots of parking tickets in NYC , I drove it back to Toronto and sold it for $200.
The other day I was faced with having to photograph a painting that was mounted on a frame very close to a building. I arranged for the artist (Johnny Meah) to call me when the sun covered the entire canvas. When I arrived I realized that my 21mm lens would not be wide enough to stand with my back against the wall of the building and get the entire painting in the frame. I went to plan B which was to stand off to the side and photograph from an angle.
I wasn’t too happy with the result, but the artist seemed pleased since it was the best photo he had been able to get so far. The painting had to be taken down and shipped out that afternoon. I kept thinking that somehow I could have done better. I just kept thinking about it.
I remembered that back when I had a darkroom, I was able to tilt the enlarging easel a bit to correct for distortions. Some enlargers have lens swing capability which helps, but distortion correction capability is still quite minor. If you went too far, you would exceed the depth of field capability of the enlarging lens resulting in a portion of the print being out of focus.
Then a lightbulb came on in my head. Photoshop had a distortion capability in the transform menu. If I could distort this image in the exact reverse that the painting was distorted, perhaps I could un-distort the painting.
Sure enough, it worked perfectly! The negative was high quality and my Nikon CoolScan V scanner set to highest resolution scan gave me a lot of extra pixels. There was a loss of data but it was within the range to permit me to obtain a high quality image in the end. The artist was very pleased at the final result. We both had a good laugh when we realized that the frame strut on the left could have been removed for the purpose of making the photograph. Somehow it did not occur to either of us to do it. I show the un-cropped image at right to demonstrate the amount of distortion required to un-distort the actual painting. I then tightly cropped the painting to match the edge of the canvas.
By the way, this banner will be used in the upcoming film “Passion Play” starring Megan Fox, Mickey Rourke and Bill Murray.
Photoshop is really a giant leap forward from the days of enlarger, chemicals, trays and darkroom. I don’t think I could have ever obtained such an extreme perspective correction by simply tilting the enlarging easel. I still like the “look” of film and I miss using Panatomic-X film. (See the page on my blog 6 wellesley west for more about Panatomic-X.) Technology marches on and in time there may come a digital camera that can match or exceed film… even Panatomic-X.
I know you are all saying, “OK, we get it!… Nel is a great graphic designer! Enough already”. I just have one more thing to add to my earlier post on the Cake City logo that she drew on the back of envelope one morning while in the middle of her first cup of coffee. I just finished making some stencils of the logo in the event that we might need them. I thought it might be handy to use to make a quick imprint on the back of our plywood cake base boards that will be used on large cakes. If you watch the cake shows on TV, you will know what I mean. Anyway, almost NO modification was needed in making the stencil master. Just a small change to the “A” in CAKE to get rid of one “island”. That’s it. That is very unusual. Most logos require much modification to make a stencil. Then it was on to the Cricut machine that I have set up to accept SVG files and a perfect stencil was produced. The one shown here was made in card stock (paper), but I made some using plastic that will be very rugged.
Those of you who watched my slideshow about Rory and his dome may be interested in new information provided to me by the nice people who bought the property. I thought that eventually someone would see the website and be able to update me with its current status. It didn’t take as long as I thought it would.
This family purchased the property in 2001 from Rory’s siblings who had inherited it from their parents when they passed away. After Rory’s untimely death, the property remained untouched and was allowed to have a peaceful and graceful burial at the hands of mother nature. In my mind’s eye, I see a series of seasons changing as years go by in fast-forward… glorious autumn colors, comfortable blankets of white snow, the awakening of spring and the busy summer activity. The structure that he built slowly became one with the earth.
The new owners had no idea of the history of the property and were surprised to find the remains of the dome buried beneath many inches of soil and moss. As you can see the structure they built is robust and should provide them and future generations of their family with great pleasure and enjoyment.
Thank you to those who have left comments on the website. I plan on leaving the slideshow site up as long as I am able to operate a computer… which should be for a long time.
It is not really news that we are opening a bakery in a month or so. I would like to comment a bit on the logo though since I think the creation of it is remarkable. The idea of opening a bakery was 100% Nel’s. I thought it was a good one since everyone has always thought Nel’s baked goods were outstanding… she can make just about anything and make it to perfection.
We spent some time talking about what her vision for what the bakery was going to be and how to capitalize on her strengths in both making great baked goods and art. Specialization in wedding cakes and other special occasion cakes would be the obvious thing to do. We talked and talked. Nel and I are alike in that we have a vision of these kinds of things that is very complete, down to the last detail.
I remember we were sitting at the kitchen counter and she announced that she had decided on the name of the bakery. It would be CAKE CITY. I instantly said “great!… now you will need a logo”.
I’ve designed my share of logos in my career and it usually involves a week or two of pondering, sketching, looking up stuff, trying to find inspiration, etc, etc. I was kind of shocked when Nel reached for an envolope from the junk mail pile and began drawing on the blank side. I scanned the envelope and you can see it in the upper left of this post. As you can see there are a few erasures, but she finished the drawing in less than a minute. I was astounded! The next day she traced the scan I made in Adobe Illustrator to make a vector file and added the type. A few days later, I was filling out forms on the Patent and Trademark Office website to apply for our trademark.
Things can go quickly sometimes and that is a good thing. Like I said, Nel sees this project in a very complete form. The logo is just an example. It seems like no thought but in reality there is almost infinite thought and it is immediate. She then proceeded to draw a floorplan for the space and we were off and running.
Next was a website. We were able to get the domain name cakecity.com and I set up a temporary page. Visit the page and sign up for updates as we get closer to opening day. If you like to watch the “cake shows” on TV you will be pleased to know that we will have a video channel on the website that will show the goings-on in the bakery. You can watch your pastries being made and be part of the fun!
We had to close Cake City due to a variety of reasons. The domain name, trademark and social networking names (facebook, twitter and youtube) are all for sale. Contact me for more info.
Photoshop mock-up of our sign as it will appear and where it will appear.
This clip is from the movie How to Draw A Bunny, a documentary about artist Ray Johnson. This film provides an interesting view into the world of modern art during the “Warhol Period” where all the rules about doing art and collecting art were thrown out the window.