Elwood H. Smith
I'm Back. In 3 Parts
JULY 8, 2007
Randy Enos is amazing. Where the hell does that creative crustacean get all that energy? He scrapes and carves out those inventive, mind-boggling, multicolored linocuts by the barrel-full and still finds time to regularly post delightful, interesting articles here on Drawger. Damn his dirty hide, he shames us all.
Which brings me to me. It has been eight months since I posted anything on Drawger, which is nearly the time it took me to bake in my mother’s oven. When Mark Matcho invited me to join Drawger, I sat on it for a while, wondering if I really needed another distraction. Once I jumped in, however, I began posting like a banshee. Then, without any real intention of doing so, I jumped right back out. I’m not sure why. I do recall becoming overwhelmed by the massive influx of new members. When I joined, Drawger had 17 motley illustrators all chitchatting around, warming their hands on an old Macintosh. As of today, we have 83 members rattling around the joint. Eighty three high-grade artists gathered together on a single blog! I am impressed and amazed. And I have no idea how anyone can even begin the chore of keeping up with all the interesting articles and the inspiring imagery here on Drawger and still find time to make art. Recently Zina Saunders and Nancy Stahl came to Rhinebeck for a visit (man, was that a double Dutch treat!) and Zina reminded me that members shouldn’t feel obligated to read or respond to every article. My old Punster Society pal, Lou Brooks (who is, finally and happily a Drawgerite), recently told me the same thing. (Conveyed, of course, via thought balloons surrounded by images laden with large, colorful, out of register, halftone dots)
So, please, heed this warning: STOP READING THIS ARTICLE and go back to work, life is short and this type too small.
Oh, you’re still here? Okay, for the diehards, I’ll continue to babble on a little longer. Anything worth doing, I always say, is worth overdoing.
Perhaps another reason I backed off Drawger for a spell was my renewed interest in making music. Too much to do, too little time. A couple of years ago, I stopped performing with my old band, “The Polecats” and, for the first time since 1971, I found myself without a callus on my fingers. The guitars and mandolin lay dormant in their cases with rust forming on their tuneless strings. My renewed interest in making live music (I’d been using mostly GarageBand for my soundtracks) began last autumn when I offered to teach my friend, Paul Thiele, to play guitar. After a lesson or two, it became obvious to us both that Paul had little interest in learning to play the guitar in a traditional manner. No finger-bending chords and endless scales for this inquisitive fellow. Miles Davis and his landmark album, “Bitch’s Brew”, were the sounds Paul was absorbing and was anxious to produce. Yeah, I know Miles learned all that complicated stuff before making those great, weird sounds, but so what? Right? C’mon, Elwood, let’s do it, okay?
Okay, what the hell, Paul.
We jettisoned the formal lessons and, without the curse of finely honed skills and music theory and, ignorance being bliss, we cheerfully began our weekly sessions. The Glitches Brew Sessions had begun. Most every Wednesday, Paul and I hunker down and, fueled by tasty, dark ale and enthusiasm without borders, we joyously pick at and scratch away on our electric guitars, pumping out sweet and sour sounds. We are accompanied by my uncomplaining, metronomic Fender G-DEC backup band. From time to time, just to keep the cats on their toes, Paul honks out a few notes on his Yamaha sax. The music we produce may not be complex but it is, I swear upon the roiling grave of Miles Dewey Davis III, a most satisfying musical experience.
Although I was in my prime a passable bluegrass-style flatpicker, I had grown bored with my playing. Paul’s need to explore a free, more experimental kind of music coincided with my own interest in creating experimental sound-collage tapestries on the computer. One thing for sure, I come away every week from our jam session all fired up with renewed determination to break free of old, ingrained habits.
As I’ve written about elsewhere in my Drawger blog, my short films and animation projects have offered me an opportunity to merge my art and music. Regularly, one medium kicks out old and muddied windows for the other. My illustration style was only minimally affected by this experimental phase. Over the past several weeks, however, I have found a way to ladle the burbling creative stew into my illustrations. I’ve included a couple of my current experiments in this article.
A couple of weeks ago, I traveled with David Goldin to J.J. Sedelmaier’s animation studio down in White Plains. Edel Rodriguez and Barry Blitt showed up and we joined J.J. and his creative staff for some wonderful conversation and tasty pizza. J.J. is not only an excellent animator, he is a first-rate host. It was a pleasure getting to know David as he navigated the Taconic Parkway to and from White Plains. We discussed many topics, professional and personal, including David’s frightening abiltity to burn to a crisp oncoming traffic with his laser eyes. He destroyed two SUVs before I managed to divert him by bringing up a topic dear to his heart: the collage-illustration technique that he and Serge Bloch employ so masterfully. For some time now, I have been using collage in my endless, ongoing moving picture project, but I’ve been wary of applying it to my illustration. Each time in the past, when I’ve contemplated adding other images to my drawings, I ended up abandoning the idea, figuring that the Photoshop collage approach was pretty much sewn up by Goldin, Bloch, Vasconelos (wow, great stuff, Walter!) and others.
But the appeal of the collage approach overwhelmed me. I decided it was highly unlikely that anyone would confuse my efforts with the work of Goldin, or Bloch or Vasconelos. I’ve never had the chops necessary to imitate other’s art style, even that of my biggest influences, Billy DeBeck & George Herriman. They infused my work to be sure and, although I tried mightily to cop their delicious pen technique, I’ve always ended up with an Elwoodian broth. The same seems to be true with my latest experimentation. I hope so. I don’t want to end up on the receiving end of those laser eyes.
Thanks, Zimm, for keeping the clubhouse door open. It’s good to be back.