You've been going about cartooning completely the WRONG WAY! You sit there, trying to draw cartoons, but it's HARD. You are often BLOCKED and can't get the drawings to turn out right and your ideas SUCK. We all know that feeling and rumor has it that the cartoonist illustrators here on Drawger have that feeling of inadequacy more than the other (more serious) artists on this blog.
Relax, Monkey is here and HELP is just around the corner.
Example 1 is a sketch my pal Elwood did a while back for the Wall Street Journal. It's pathetic. The guy can't draw hands or feet. Where's the perspective? You call those pointy things BUSHES?
See what I mean? He's wasting his time. If only Elwood would admit he needs help. Stop snickering, Buster. You, too, probably need help. Am I right? You need someone, a PRO to help you learn the TRICKS of the TRADE. You need to learn SECRETS from a MASTER. You are in luck, my friends. LOU DARVAS GUARANTEES to turn "you into a PRO!" He'll do so online, in the comfort of your own home. Within three months, you can lose your pathetic amateur status, becoming a pro in Twelve Easy Steps!
You heard me right. Elwood discovered his site a mere FIVE days ago and already I'm seeing improvement. Take a look at example 2. Now you're talking! Look at the improvement on Ronald's hands and feet. Examine the chicken's anatomy. Check out the perspective on that pizza pie!
I want to talk about this guy I know, lives further up the Hudson River. Like Elwood, he's a Michigan boy. Ah, Michigan My Michigan, land of pine trees and wolverines. Home of the Michigan Militia, the gun-toting paramilitary organization. Google "Michigan Militia & check out Maggie Pickard's favorite song by the group Moxy Früvous. Michael Moore chats it up with the Militia in "Bowling For Columbine". But I'm getting off topic. I don't want to discuss gunslingers, Moxy or Elwood. I want to let you know about another Michigan boy, this one with REAL talent.
Does the name George Gruel ring a bell? Probably not, unless you spotted his name on Elwood's website or followed Warren Zevon's band between 1978 to '84. George was the road manager for Zevon. What does a road manager really do, I asked. George's answer:
"I made sure the whole 'circus' got to the correct city, on time and did the show. Then I'd collect the money load 'em all up and head to the next town. 2 buses and a 45' tractor-trailer rig with full lights and sound support. The drivers of those vehicles were some interesting characters. I was, in equal parts, friend, humorist, shrink, travel agent, booking agent, accountant and lover of rock-n-roll."
I'd work 2 to 3 days ahead, via the phone, checking with promoters and hotels making sure everything was in order. And all of this without cell phones. Looking back on it, it was a lot of work, but it was immensely rewarding and fun. I've experienced so much music right from the stage. Gee, why do my ears still ring?"
If George told me he'd carved Zevon's guitar picks from grizzly bear teeth, I'd believe him. Sadly, Warren Zevon died way too prematurely.
I met a girl from the Vieux Carre` Down in Yokahama She picked me up and she'd throw me down I said, "Where's George Gruel, my road manger and best friend" "Come on out here George..." Get up and dance Get up and dance or I'll kill you and I got the means
But now, back to the George I know; George the photographer. The guy also makes technical drawings and draws wonderfully funny ones. He is a graphic designer and designs websites. He's a computer whiz and one hell of a storyteller. And (finally, we are getting to it) he is maybe one of my favorite photographers. Right up there at the top. He has the gift of capturing exactly the right moment, the perfect light, the conversion of elements to create perfect images. He mucks about with his pictures in Photoshop, but his touch is never gimmicky. George somehow adds or subtracts only that which hones a great shot into an outstanding one.
George recently returned from a Michigan sojourn with a passel of pics. They are, to my monkey mind, breathtaking. Each frame is perfect. Old, toothless barns, aflame with reds and oranges anchored to a field of billiard-green grass. Some, like his "WELCOME to RIGA" storefront, awash with chalky-blue cinderblocks and sea-foam green windows punctuated with a worn, orange door framing an old, yellow 7-up sign. I'm trying to describe these amazing pictures but it's hopeless. You've got to visit his site, OddStick and see 'em for yourself.
Rob Saunders asked if Elwood had a guitar hero when he was a beginning guitarist. He sure did. His long, tedious answer:
Aside from Chet Atkins (I never did grasp fingerpicking) and Les Paul (I was in love with Mary Ford), my favorite guitarist when I began playing was George Barnes. I'd found a mono LP in the cheapo bin of the local Woolworth store in Alpena. it was called Country Jazz on the Truetone label, had a dreadful stock photo on the cover, and the vinyl was horrible with massive surface noise, but the music was pure magic. I listened to that disc over and over. His technique was and continues to be way over my head.
Barnes, largely ignored today, was a superb arranger and created some excellent duet recordings with Carl Kress and Bucky Pizzarelli, some first class cuts with a woodwind octet and a series of strange, sometimes mediocre albums with a bevy of top New York session guitarists in an attempt to get a big band sound with a band that included nine guitars, a rhythm guitar, piano, celeste, xylophones, marimbas, bongos and an assortment of timbales, maracas, tambourine and casabas. With titles like "Guitars Galore" and "Guitar Galaxies" the effect was light, fun, inventive and gimmicky. At his best, though, Barnes is one of the most distinctive swing guitar voices.
Dave Gould in the U.K. has a page dedicated to Barnes:
You can get Barnes' final recording (recorded live in July of 1977 at the Willows Theater in Concord, California) at David Grisman's site, Dawgnet. The CD is called "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" and is on Grisman's label, Acoustic Disc.
Howdy Drawgerites, Monkey, here. Actually no one asked for anything, but I just broke out of the vet's office where Elwood had me boarded for an "indefinite period of time" and I thought I'd join in on the embarrassing "early picture" rave that's hatched in my absence. Being a modest monkey, I figured I'd pass on posting my delightful baby pics and nail Elwood. He's dozing off at his drawing table and may awaken any minute, so I'll make this short and sweet.
That's Elwood above in 1958 at the Long Lake Supermarket. After the store closed, he and the owner's son, Al Zdan, would plug in and play till late into the night. The guitar he's holding was built by his dad from Carvin hardware and the neck & body constructed from a choice piece of hard rock Michigan maple. His dad's name was Elwood. Name's a hoot, if you ask me. What were they thinking up there in Alpena, Michigan?
Got me to thinking about other Elwoods, like the infamous Elwood Blues of the Blues Brothers and the earlier Elwood P. Dowd played by Jimmy Stewart in the movie Harvey. So I hit the Worldwide Web for a quick check. Here's what I found:
Elwood was Elwood before this Belushi's pal was Elwood: Elwood Blues (Dan Aykroyd (Born July 1st 1952 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada)
But not before drunken Jimmy played Elwood: Elwood P. Dowd of the movie "Harvey" with Jimmy Stewart Click for Harvey
Unlike Elwood H., this guy was a high flyer: Chuck Yeager's full name is... Charles Elwood Yeager.
Check out the Giant Elwood Bike! A model for ladies and gents. Giant Elwood
How's about an Elwood Enlarger (Elwood could use one of them babies!). I found this on the web somewhere: "I went to a used photo shop today to look at an Omega D2 they had advertised. Instead I became intrigued with an old 5x7 Elwood. I had never seen one of these beasts before but am interested. The dealer guessed the unit was built in the 50's."
Green Monkey has been in the business of freelance illustration for a zillion years and you'd think he would be resigned to clients making changes to his work.
Sadly, Monkey is just as prickly and dismayed every time a sketch comes back with changes. Luckily Mugwump, his wife, rep, business manager and creative partner, acts as a buffer. Here's the kind of e-mail she gets in response to an e-mailed sketch:
"Monkey, we LOVE IT!!!! Honest to God, we were rolling around the floor, our sides splitting and our guts spewing all over my new 2.16 GHz Intel Core Duo MacBook Pro. However, we have one or two minor changes. The Editor (that's his real name) wants to lose the pig's hat. The duck would be more convincing if you removed his shoes. I mean, does anyone actually wear wing-tips anymore? And he's too fat. Could you trim him down a bit? The Editor has weight problems. Fat ducks make him nervous. Also, you've put the spider on a motorcycle, which is hilarious, but might send a dangerous message to teens. Better to play it safe and put her in a Honda Civic. Make sure it has side airbags.
"Oh, and one more little tweak--while the elephant is PERFECT, we don't want to get into politics here, so please change it to a snake. We realize it'll completely alter your composition, so you might want to add some other animals to fill up the void. Make them moles or wolverines. Avoid cats--the Editor is allergic to cats. And no dogs. A dog bit me when I was a baby. Dogs creep me out.
"Can we see a revision early this afternoon? Again, Monkey, we LOVE the sketch!"
Monkey begins his usual rant. Mugwump rolls her eyes. Monkey calms down, but is depressed. He swears to the Gods of Commercial Art that he can't take it anymore. He makes a cup of tea laced with rum. Monkey is suddenly ravenous and slobbers together an almond butter sandwich with cranberry sauce. He chases the sandwich with a banana. He belches loudly as he leaves the kitchen. Mugwump rolls her eyes. Monkey returns to the drawing table, whines a little and makes the changes. The client is delighted. They say it's a GO!!!! With only one small change--they really loved that darned elephant. Would it be too much trouble to dump those wolverines & bring back the elephant?
Sometimes Mugwump convinces the client that the changes are arbitrary and severely weaken the art. Sometimes the Editors have the ability to see Monkey's extraordinary brilliance when it is pointed out to them. Sometimes the Word Experts honor the highly honed skills of the Image Experts. And sometimes it snows in July.
Green Monkeys are busy. Very busy. The activity is sometimes work and sometimes it's avoiding work. They believe it's a critical aspect to the creative process. And so it is.
Monkeys sit at the drawing table completely flummoxed by the article they are about to illustrate. They are suddenly seized by a need to pee. Real bad. They do so. They step iinto the hallway and peer into the studio. The drawing pad is still blank. Hunger overtakes Monkey and he heads down to the ktchen for salza and chips. Maybe a little slice of cheese. The dog shares some chips and asks to go out for a pee.
Damn, Monkey forgot to feed the squirrels! Dog back inside (she eats the squirrel's peanuts) and back out into the Spring air to "feed the squirrels".
Done. Now the Monkey is making a cup of tea. Does Monkey do situps while the water boils? No, he reads his horoscope in the Penny Saver. And changes the dog's water.
Tea is made and Monkey is sitting before blank paper. The tea is good. The mind is sluggish. Maybe a short nap is in order. Yes, that's it! The New York Times article did say something about the necessity of naps. What was it? Reduced the incidence of heart attacks or something. Old Monkey won't be of any use to the magazine if he dies of a massive coronary.
And so it goes. A Monkey Day is a busy day.
I'll write more of the Monkey's life later. I gotta pee.