Wednesday, May 20, 2009

NO DRUGS (EXCEPT FOR PINK FLOYD)

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Having survived a time travel trip back to 1970 in the Waybac Machine to relive my boyhood illiteracy and a schoolyard crush on a little girl named Yolanda [see Dear Diarrhea], I got the idea to continue this LOOK BACK IN ANGUISH theme by revisiting my youthful interest in art.

As most little kids do, I loved to draw - particularly my heroes, cowboys and TV's Batman. Here's one of my early Adventures In Art, put on paper when I was five or six years old. Below is Batman and Robin in the midst of battle. This is from my mid-'60s Hallmark BATMEMOS notepad. Not exactly sure what's happening here, but that sure is some crowded airspace. "Quick, Robin! To the BatB-52!"



When I was 15 years old, I made an oil painting for my maternal grandma which I titled "The Pinkest Rose." The color is a bit washed out in the photo and the rose may appear to be a paint-by-numbers thang, but it ain't. This was baked from scratch. If you're wondering why there are no leaves on that stem, bear in mind that this was 1976, the year of the great foliage shortage.



The remainder of the drawings presented below are selections from my various sketchbooks. All of them were made from 1977 or '78 through 1983. During those years, I was supporting myself by doing Background (or "Extra") work for movies and television shows. I would usually keep a sketchbook with me to kill time with during all those long waits while lights and cameras were being set up for the next shot.

By now, the nice boy who painted nice roses for his grandma had become a bit... uhm... eccentric. Now the "art" (if we can call it that) was not quite acceptable for polite company. I was letting my mind run wild, and what these drawings lack in technical skill they almost make up for in strangeness (or what I like to call "imagination"). Contrary to what someone who can't even draw a decent stick figure may mistakenly think, these illustrations are not much good. I took one Life Drawing class my senior year in high school, and that's the course I most often cut in order to hang out at the beach with my friend, Eric. Other than that one class, I am entirely self-taught, and so my drawings are fundamentally flawed. They consist primarily of ink and bad habits.

People looking through my sketchbooks would invariably ask the same question: "Man! What drugs were you on?" I grew tired of the question, so in a couple of instances, I tried to nip it in the bud by writing "No drugs!" somewhere near the drawing.

My brother, Napoleon, took these photos for me with his cell phone camera. (Thanks, Nappy!) When he saw the first drawing below he exclaimed, "What the hell is THAT?!" I told him, "I don't know. I guess it's just a 'Sunrise Over A Mongoloid' since that's the title I gave it." Nappy replied, "Well, you always were weird. And all your friends were weird, too."

The notation in the bottom left corner reads: No drugs!



While I was growing up in the Los Angeles area during the 1970s, there was a car dealership owned by a man named Cal Worthington. Worthington made a lot of local television advertising spots in which he would appear wearing a cowboy hat. Every commercial began with him saying, "Hi, I'm Cal Worthington and this is my dog, Spot." Appearing with him would be a lion or a tiger or a camel or an elephant, or just about any sort of animal one could think of... except a dog. Cal Worthington's dog, Spot, was NEVER a dog. Well, one day, I put my own spin on that idea. The illustration below is titled, "Cal Worthington's dog, Spot."



This is a pencil portrait of Ella Fint. She is 5'4", has blue eyes, brown hair, and she is 22 years old. Her important numbers are 35-23-34. It says Ella Fint is "Single... for reasons unknown."



Now, I'm no architect, but something tells me the landing legs on this otherworldly spacecraft are not structurally sound. I can only assume that those long legs are made of some superstrong metal unknown on planet Earth.



Just to prove that I wasn't always playing the part of Mister Bizarro, I would occasionally draw something sort of normal. Below is a portrait in pencil of Debbie Harry from the bad pop group Blondie. I never liked Blondie, but my artist friend Eric did. I think he mostly just wanted to do nasty things with Debbie. I was never particularly fond of Fleetwood Mac either, but Eric was. I think he mostly just wanted to do nasty things with Stevie Nicks. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)



Alright, enough of that stuffs! Back to the Bizarre.

When I was a teenager, I liked to close my eyes and listen to Pink Floyd albums through headphones and just let my mind wander. Whatever images came to me while I was listening to Floyd's odd noodlings, I would later draw in a sketchbook. My two favorite Floyd albums to conduct this sort of exercise with were Ummagumma and Meddle. There's nothing like the instrumentals "Echoes", "Careful With That Axe, Eugene", or "Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict" for igniting a person's imagination.

Below is the result of one such experiment. I guess on this occasion, the music made me feel as if I were nothing but a head with a single foot attached to the bottom of my neck. Up above is the message "No drugs! Except for Pink Floyd" and an arrow pointing down to the illustration. Below it is the question, "Ever felt like this?" Well, OK, maybe you haven't. And that's probably a good thing.



Just a common Dragonthang on another planet. You know.



Below this pencil drawing it reads: "You cannot hide anything from him! He knows all your best kept secrets." Well, isn't that comforting?



Another pencil drawing. I have no idea what this is, but no drugs were involved in the process of creating him.



A self-portrait in pencil. This isn't the drawing you take home to mother for her to hang on her refrigerator door. "Look what my son made. Isn't he... uhm... special?"



No drugs! No drugs, I tell ya!

This drawing was made when I was still fascinated by the idea of beings visiting the Earth from outer space. Years later, after some serious study and thought, I came to realize that UFOs and their occupants are actually demonic entities, not visitors from outer space. If something strange with structurally unsound legs ever lands on your farm, run - don't walk! - to the nearest church or brewery.



This is a Facescape, and Nappy's favorite drawing from my sketchbooks. There's Dennis The Menace in there, and Marlon Brando, and Jesus. Even a cartoon version of that American traitor Jimmy Carter appears below.



An experiment I would occasionally attempt had me trying to draw like I did back when I was five or six years old. In other words, I was trying to think like a child and unlearn how to draw. It was more of a mental exercise than anything else, and it's more difficult than one might imagine. If a person can actually draw with a reasonable amount of precision, how does that person go about undoing that ability? It's like attempting to unknow a fact you've learned.

I wanted to regress myself and artificially draw the way I naturally drew as a child. With practice, I found that holding the pen higher than normal, I had less control over it and that helped, but nevertheless, some experiments were more successful than others, as I couldn't always climb sufficiently back into my childhood mind.

I have one page that was a much greater overall success than the one below, but I chose to show this one instead because I think it includes my single best result.

The drawing titled "A Punk Rockr" was a total failure (what does a child know about punk rockers?) and so was the illustration of "A guitar." First of all, few 5 year-olds are going to spell guitar correctly. This shows that I wasn't really thinking like a little kid. Secondly, there is too much detail and too much accuracy of shape to believe that this drawing of a guitar was really done by a child. But "Franknstin" and "A baseball playr" came out pretty well.

I think the best I ever achieved, however, was "A bad boy get spanking." Compare that one with the drawings of Batman and Robin at the top of this Blog Bit. It would be believable if someone claimed that both drawings were done by the same child in the same year. Yep, no doubt about it, "A bad boy get spanking" is the best drawing I ever made.



I probably shouldn't be posting this Blog Bit because of the weirdness factor. We shall see how many of my friends suddenly disappear from my life after viewing this. (I predict that both of them will run away.)

In 1994, I used a black Sharpie marker to put a dragon on a white sweatshirt for my friend The Countess (she liked dragons), and I believe that was the last drawing I made. That was the same year I sought employment as an animator for some silly kids' cartoon program about monsters. I think the cartoon might have been called "Monsters", but I'm not sure. All I remember for sure is that it was really simplistic animation and the production company turned me down. That kind of irritated me because, although I am fully aware of my many artistic limitations, I knew I was good enough to reproduce the slop they were making. I get no respect. Never have. I'm the Rodney Dangerfield of pseudo-artists. Oh well, it's life, and life only.

Now, I'm knocking on the age of fifty and the only time I put pen to paper is to write a check or fill out my time sheet at work. The only thing I draw these days is the short straw.

~ Stephen T. McCarthy
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10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey, Stephen:

Wow, Pal. What a wonderful Blog entry. I had no idea you had so much artistic talent. (I thought you told me one time you couldn't draw very well?) Hmmmm...

While your later drawings showed your obvious gift for this, I admit that your 5-year-old drawing of Batman and Robin is my personal favorite.

I just love the abandon with which children draw. Scale is to the importance of the subject matter (Batman is larger than the aircraft) and anatomical restrictions are of no concern (Batman can shoot directly behind at an impossible 45 degree angle).

The animators who chose not to hire you really missed out.

Thanks for sharing...

~The Aard~

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

Thanks, AARD. What a sweet comment!
I don't recall what I may have previously said, but I'm sure I would not have said "I can't draw very well", just as I would not have said "I can draw very well." I can imagine me saying something like this: I DON'T DRAW TOO BAD FOR A GUY WHO DON'T DRAW TOO GOOD.

I can look at some of these drawings now and easily discern errors in perspective, angle, shading, etc. Most of them really were not well executed. But I like to believe they display an ability to think a little bit "outside of the box." I mean, for a guy who don't do drugs!

And you make a very good point: When a child is drawing, frequently "importance" of subject means "more bigness." HA! A fine observation!

Say, being an Angeleno yerself, you must remember the "Cal Worthington's dog, Spot" television commercials, too. Right?

~ STMcC
<"As a dog returns to his own vomit,
so a fool repeats his folly."
~ Proverbs 26:11>

Anonymous said...

Hey Stephen:

[I don't recall what I may have previously said, but I'm sure I would not have said "I can't draw very well", just as I would not have said "I can draw very well." I can imagine me saying something like this: I DON'T DRAW TOO BAD FOR A GUY WHO DON'T DRAW TOO GOOD.]

Ha! Maybe that was me I was thinking about. (I have trouble drawing a recognizable stick man.) Your Debbie Harry looks just like her (I skimmed the pix before the read the entire text.)

[Say, being an Angeleno yerself, you must remember the "Cal Worthington's dog, Spot" television commercials, too. Right?]

Are you kiddin’? Cal is still doing those “spots with Spot.” Cal is quite long in the tooth these days (then again, who isn’t?), but he is still plugging away on late night TV. The guy has a serious work ethic.

My Mom, who is a HUGE country and western music fan, used to make us watch Cal’s Corral on Sunday afternoons. ‘member this one? My brother and I – being the completely intolerant twerps that we were – thought this was akin to child abuse. Callow youth… what can I say?

~The Aard~

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

FLYIN' AARD ~
Hey, that's cool that Cal's still kickin' and still doing the Dog Spot spots. I'm glad to learn that some things don't change with time.

No, I'd never heard of "Cal's Corral" before. I only knew Cal as that dude with the funny lookin' dogs.

However, when I was a wee wrangler, I absolutely loved Sheriff John. Remember him? His theme song brought me in from the yard for lunch every day. On TV, he even mentioned me once and sang his famous "Put Another Candle On The Birthday Cake." I got my 15 minutes of fame early in life.

~STMcC

Postscript: I noticed that somebody actually graded my vacation announcement above and only gave it a mediocre ("Yoo-Hoo") score. Ha!-Ha! Now I really have seen everything.

Anonymous said...

Stephen:

[No, I'd never heard of "Cal's Corral" before. I only knew Cal as that dude with the funny lookin' dogs.]

Same guy, but he used to host a 3 hour long country and western music show on Sunday afternoons which was telecast live from his car lot. (I still have nightmares about it.) There was kind of a makeshift corral setup with bales of hay all around, and the singers and pickers would perform live. Although the program actually gave birth to a couple of fairly well known performers (i.e., Delaney Bramlett – right before he hooked with Bonnie and Friends), most of the “talent” was definitely second and third tier Hank Williams wannabes. (Excessive yodeling and warbling.) My brother and I used to feel like we were trapped in one of Dante’s lesser known circles of Hell every Sunday.

[However, when I was a wee wrangler, I absolutely loved Sheriff John. Remember him? His theme song brought me in from the yard for lunch every day. On TV, he even mentioned me once and sang his famous "Put Another Candle On The Birthday Cake." I got my 15 minutes of fame early in life.]

I definitely remember Sheriff John. Didn’t he have a cartoon called “Crusader Rabbit” (with his sidekick ‘Rags’) on his show? I think this may have been an early Jay Ward effort, but I can’t be sure about this. I remember the “Birthday Cake” song. There were a couple of children’s show hosts around when I was young: someone called “Engineer Bill,” and I believe Paul Winchell had a program on as well. My personal favorite though was Soupy Sales. I just loved that man!

[Postscript: I noticed that somebody actually graded my vacation announcement above and only gave it a mediocre ("Yoo-Hoo") score. Ha!-Ha! Now I really have seen everything.]

Well, Pal, there’s no shortage of weirdness in the world.

~The Aard~

Anonymous said...

STM,

As with your "Dear Diarrhea" bit, this one makes me wish I hadn't tossed away almost everything other than my birth certificate that proves I was young once.

I guess it's true that "it's all relative", but to someone who truly has no artistic talent like myself, I think your sketches are pretty damn good.

As for your weirdness factor making your friends run away, Hell that's what drew me to you in the first place bud. Hope you're enjoying the surf.

WP

DiscConnected said...

Stephen-

No drugs?

What's the point?

(pause while deeply inhaling off of a bong)

(another pause while I exhale loudly)

What was I saying?

DiscConnected

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

>>[I definitely remember Sheriff John. Didn’t he have a cartoon called “Crusader Rabbit” (with his sidekick ‘Rags’) on his show?]<<

Hmmm... I remember Crusader Rabbit, AARD, but couldn't say whether or not that was a cartoon shown on Sheriff John's show.

How 'bout Hobo Kelly and Daphne The Witch? Remember those 1960's kiddie show hosts? Two more that held my short attention back in the day.

But Sheriff John was the King of Kiddieland as far as I was concerned.

~ STMcC
<"As a dog returns to his own vomit,
so a fool repeats his folly."
~ Proverbs 26:11>

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

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Yo! OL' WP-O...

I've always been the sentimental sort who spends more time looking back than looking forward, so I have a few "treasure boxes" filled with items from my past. I'm sure I'll find my Chuck Berry autograph in one of those boxes one of these days.

>>[I think your sketches are pretty damn good.]<<

Ahhh, thanks, Bro. Someday, maybe I'll post all the naked women I drew from Playboy photos. HA!

>>[As for your weirdness factor ... Hell that's what drew me to you in the first place bud.]<<

Glad to hear it because the middle initial "T" in my name stands for "Weirdness."

Dogs, Vomit, Fools, Folly (all the usual)...
STMcC

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

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DISCMAN ~
Too bad you inhaled. You might have had a shot at the presidency otherwise.

~ STMcC
<"As a dog returns to his own vomit,
so a fool repeats his folly."
~ Proverbs 26:11>