Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Autoharp, Zither, and Mother Maybelle!

The first time I remember seeing an autoharp was the one John Sebastian, of the Lovin’ Spoonful played on “Do You Believe in Magic?” when they were on something like the Ed Sullivan Show (To me, at the time, Sebastian’s autoharp looked as alien as the dopey accordion player in Gary Lewis and the Playboys.) Later on in art school, I had a friend who played autoharp and I got to monkey around a little with it but I never really appreciated its potential as an instrument.

After all, the autoharp is bit of a peculiar instrument.

For one thing, although it sort of looks like one, it isn’t a harp at all. It belongs to the zither family. The delightful, haunting music that accompanies the opening credits of the British film noir, The Third Man, is an excellent example of what the zither sounded like in traditional European folk music.

Now, the autoharp is in fact a chorded zither. Its origin seems to be clouded in fuzzy memory and patent litigation, but one thing is for sure, it became a very popular rhythm instrument in the folk music of the American south in the early part of the 20th century.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been listening a lot lately to the Carter Family. My appreciation for Mother Maybelle Carter as one of the most innovative guitar pickers of all time has been growing in leaps and bounds. Maybelle’s cousin and sister-in-law, Sara Carter, sang lead melody on most of their songs and strummed an autoharp as a rhythmic accompaniment to Maybelle’s scratchy-thumping lead on her guitar. A.P. Carter, Sara’s husband, joined in with the bass vocals when they sang three part harmony.

After the trio broke up, Maybelle continued performing with her daughters, The Carter Sister—June, Anita, and Helen. They were regular performers on the Grand Ole Opry.

This video showcases Mother Maybelle, in 1961, playing “Liberty Dance” on autoharp with Flatt and Scruggs on the Grand Ole Opry/Pet Milk Show.
It is an excellent example of how the autohard, in the hands of an accomplished musician, can easily carry the lead parts in a rollicking song.
I find this music intoxicatingly hypnotic.
(It even ends with a proverbial “Shave and a haircut—two bits” riff!)
Thought I’d share.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Two More Orphans Up For Adoption at SPX!

Felix's Five Senses!

I don't think it would be a big surprise to anyone that I like Felix The Cat. The Beanworld characters Mr Spook and the Hoi-Polloi Ring Herd are clearly aesthetic cousins of Felix.

While looking for something else, I found this great little piece online. Not only does it perfectly illustrate the five senses--it tells a very funny story--DURING prohibition no less!

Somehow, I don't suspect that in today's world we would see a mainstream cartoon character doing gags concerning the abuse of an illegal substance. I think those years of the twenties really did roar!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

"Disturbingly Healthy?"

I remember these Brylcreem "A little dab'll do ya!" television ads very well.
For a product benefit to be described, however, as "disturbingly healthy" just demonstrates how different a nation and culture we have today compared to 50 years ago. Even the product category of "hair dressing" seems hopelessly antiquated today in a marketplace of seemingly endless hair products.

Amazing Trompe-l'œil Hid Aircraft Factory!



My mind tends to soak up history like a sponge. I'm particularly fascinated by the small stories, the quirks, the oddities.
How to Hide an Airplane Factory is a gallery of an episode of California World War II art history that previously totally escaped my notice.
"During WWII the Army Corps of Engineers needed to hide the
Lockheed Burbank Aircraft Plant to protect it from a Japanese air attack. They
covered it with camouflage netting and trompe l'oeil to make it look like a
rural subdivision from the air."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Larry Marder will be @ SPX 2007!

I will be at SPX in Bethesda, MD for the entire run of the show--October 12 & 13. This all came about too late for me to be announced as an official guest but luckily for me Comic Book Legal Defense Fund will allow me to use their area as a home base.
Yes, I will be bringing batches of Beanworld Orphans with me--ready to be adopted into new homes--while raising urgently needed funds for the CBLDF.
Above are two drawings that will be accompanying me looking for good homes .
Yes, I know they were drawn on official CBLDF SD07 cardstock--but a drawing is a drawing, right?
I'll pass along more information as my plans continue to develop. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Hey Kids! It's Tantalizing Teaser Tuesday!

Is Beanish is attempting to expand his knowledge
into other forms of personal expression?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Orange Cat at the Legendary Edge

I remember doing this drawing to take to Petuniacon in 1984 to put in the art show. As I always say--I walked into Petuniacon a fan and I walked out a pro. It was drawn with Pantone marker on Bienfang 360 layout paper--my favorite paper to draw on for over 30 years.
I sold some of my of drawings at Petuniacon but this one seems to have come home and ended up lost in a file for the last 23 years.
The original is similar in size to the current set of drawings I've been doing for the CBLDF. Once I got out on the convention circuit on a rgular basis post-publication of Beanworld #1, I stopped selling colored drawings in mats and switched to the smaller, black and white "Chip Drawings."
(At least that is what Cory, Charles Brownstein and I always called them at the Beanworld booth!)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

It Seems A Meteor Crash in Peru Has Caused A Mysterious Illness!

I never thought I'd be writing about Peru again so soon. But a recent cosmic event directs my attention back to the ancestral land land of the Incas.

That fresh crater you see above was caused by an apparent meteorite. It's now filled in with skunky looking water.
The links fill you in about the event and the cascading information flow of conflicting ideas and information regarding what is going on in the area near Lake Titicaca. Noxious fumes, earthquake-like tremors, explosions, sick villagers--who will really ever know what went on down there. All I can say for sure is--it's a truly interesting area.

I fully intend to write about our day on Lake Titicaca and our visit to the native people that live on floating islands there.
Yes, floating islands--made of reeds.
But not today.

Today, I'm going to briefly comment on the area around Lake Titicaca. The gateway to Lake Titicaca is the small but incredibly vibrant city of Puno. Instead of travelling to Puno by air, Cory planned it so that we would take the ten-hour train ride from Cusco to Puno. We love travelling by train when we can. (A three day trip on Rovos Rail was one of the highlights of our trip to South Africa in 2002.)
The hours flew by as we watched the countryside change and we ascended into even higher altitudes. I took a lot of pictures out of the window and the observation car.
As far as I can discern, the people and village described in the newspaper accounts are very closely related to the folks in our pictures--in geography, language and customs--direct descendants of the Incas and their kin.
They are very colorful people.
I really liked the felt bowler-like hats it seemed virtually everyone wore--man, woman, and child. These hats have a very high crown, a narrow brim, and sit very high on the head.

Even more, I really enjoyed how the Peruvian people decorated walls of their houses with hand drawn advertisements, political messages, and plain ol' personal expressions.

One final note on the meteorite--a quote from the LA Times story:

"Now that various experts from Japan and other countries have assured us there is nothing bad, we have decided this belongs to us," said Benito Mosaja Pari, 56, who called himself the village lieutenant governor.

"We're going to dig it out.
The scientists tell us this was part of a world that fell apart.
It has some value.
And now it's ours."

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I Found This Drawing From 1976!

Once upon a time, long long ago, I did a lot of drawings that were cut into irregular shapes.The black outline you see above runs parallel to the cut edges of the paper. It was drawn with markers during the bicentennial year of 1976--31 years ago and a good four years before the Beanworld we all share today sprang into existence.
I see lots of foreshadowing of aesthetic decisions I made in the '80s. Although I expect that this drawing reflects some sort of pondering of the Tree of Knowledge or Apollo, the python and the laurel tree of the Oracle of Delphi.
Green Lantern substituting for Apollo is a bit peculiar.
This drawing caught my attention because it clearly shows my mind drifting towards the concept of Gran'Ma'Pa.
The sleeping critter in the foreground is based upon my cat--the original Mr Spook.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Amazing Advertising Trade Cards!

BibliOddysey is consistently one of my favorite sites to visit. The site advertises itself as a collection of "Books~~Illustrations~~Science~~History~~Visual Materia Obscura~~Eclectic Book art."

I love print. It's in my blood. My maternal grandfather, Larry Post, was a printer and I loved it when I was allowed to got to work with him and visit the printing facility at PhotoPress in Chicago. It was quite a thrill for a little boy.

My dad, Bernie Marder, owned a large commercial silkscreen factory, Windsor Textiles. Dad always came home smelling of ink. I really liked it.

My first real job,in Connecticut from '73 to '76, was at a printing company, Lithographics, Inc. There in addition to the clanks, and hisses and wheezes of printing presses, I grew accustomed to the bangs, thumps and thwackings of bindery equipment.

To this day, I get a real rush looking a specimen of finely printed paper.

The incredible array of printed materials collected at BibliOddysey not only consistently piques my interest but also can keep me entertained for hours on end.

The illustration above is from a terrific gallery of antique advertising trade cards. The late 19th century was a revolutionary time in the history of printing as both color lithography and rotogravure started to radically change the art and commerce of printed goods.

Out of this new technology came great changes in advertising, newspapers, magazines--and eventually the birth of the modern comic strip.

Hey Kids! It's Tantalizing Teaser Tuesday!

Mr Spook to the rescue!

Peru Is In The News Today!

I’m very up-beat over the story on page three of the LA Times today headlined “Machu Piccchu Artifacts Will Be Returned.” This made me happy for two reasons—first that the Inca artifacts will b returned to their place of origin and second—that this news was considered significant enough to be placed so prominently in a major metropolitan newspaper.

Even though I like being able to see artifacts from all over the world in American museums, I recognize that a by-product of cultural imperialism is plundering and looting of palaces, temples and burial grounds by the conquering cultures has been a fact of human history. This process was later practiced in a more civilized manner in the name of anthropology and archeology.

Sometimes there might have been the appearance of obtaining “permission” from some local honcho to crate up and export artifacts, but generally the German, French British, and American explorers and archaeologists took whatever they could find with relative impunity.

I am a firm supporter of the notion that ethnographic and archaeological discoveries should remain very close to where they were discovered and unearthed. I applaud The Getty Museum for returning artifacts to Italy and Yale University’s return of these Incan antiquities.

Yes, I’m distressed that Yale is keeping some for “further study.” I don’t really see any sort of explanation of as to why they can’t continue their studies of these findings in Peru. After all, Hiram Bingham sent these discoveries to Yale almost a century ago. But, that said, any sort of progress is progress indeed!

Additionally in the news, a Peruvian adventurer and self-styled swashbuckler named Gene Savoy has passed away. I never heard of Mr Savoy before, or had opportunity to visit his discovery, the lost city of Vilcabama. I was interested to see he started some sort of new-age theology called Cosolargy.

When Cory and I were in Peru, last year for our 20th anniversary, we were lucky enough to get to visit Machu Picchu. We traveled there from Cusco, the traditional capital city of the Inca Empire, on the ultra-swank Hiram Bingham train—another one of Cory’s fabulous A&K perks.

Cusco has an 11,000 foot elevation.
And that is really, really high.

Although adjusting to high altitudes is a process that generally unfolds relatively quickly, the first day or two can be a woozy thing—your head pounds, your lungs gasp, your knees wobble.

The local remedy is something called coca tea, and yes, it is brewed using the leaves of the coca bush making it a cousin to an illegal substance. It’s not bad tasting at all and did help as a tummy settling agent. It was served gratis in hotel lobby and everyone encourages you to drink a lot of it. We did. And I can honestly say—it is a great remedial tea.

The irony is that Machu Picchu is actually located at a lower elevation of 8,000 feet but there is so much climbing to do there that the lower 3,000 feet somehow didn’t afford much comfort at all. The act of breathing felt exactly the same as it did in Cusco.

So big deal if we had to take frequent rests and catch our breath every thirty yards or so? So was everyone else over the age of 35 climbing on the uneven original stone steps. We all laughed and smiled at each other regardless of the languages we were speaking.

As Cory and I sat together on a rock waiting to recover, the panoramic vista was plenty engaging and really filled our hearts with awe and wonder. I felt so fortunate to able to visit this magical place—and on our anniversary yet!

Our two days of exploring the ruins were absolutely inspirational. No one is really quite sure what Machu Picchu was intended to be or why or when it was abandoned by the Incas. It’s all guess work.

But the beauty of these elegantly crafted dwellings that are still stunning in a state of ruin is something that if one wasn’t already quite breathless from the elevation would succeed in taking your breath away.

The Incas, and their Peruvian descendants, have an incredible relationship with the llama and its kin, the vicuna and alpaca. There are over two dozen llamas that have absolute free reign at Machu Picchu and do a really swell job of keeping the beautiful lawns immaculately groomed

What a place! I’d go back at the drop of a hat.
A Tilly hat!

Click here for more photos from our Machu Picchu experience.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Hand Drawn Beanworld T-Shirt Found in Beanworld Archive!

A while ago, in my post about The Beanworld Dress I mentioned that I've a bit of a history drawing with marker on T-shirts. I started ruining, not only my white T-shirts, but those of all the other kids in my neighborhood after the summer of 1961--my first season at Camp Thunderbird in Bemidji MN.
At Camp Thunderbird, having your T-shirts drawn upon by an incredibly talented man named Jim "Pogo" Ploss was considered a big priviledge. Pogo was one hell of a cartoonist and song writer. The influence he had on me is considerable. I plan to write quite a bit about him when I can get my hands on my drawings and photos from those days. They are at my parents' house not with me here out west.
But...having said that, I learned how to draw on cotton watching Pogo and have done it on and off ever since.
I went through an incredible period during the late '70s and early '80s drawing highly stylized, whacked out vibrantly colored versions of Superman, Batman, and Fantastic Four on T-shirts using Pantone markers.
I used to wear them all around town and to comic book conventions in the years before I had gotten up my courage to show Beanworld to anyone.
Most of those T-shirts are packed up SOMEwhere--and for sure the sketches and drawings for the shirts exist somewhere too! (I never intentionally throw away anything to do with Beanworld --but I often file stuff according to methods and protocols I cant quite remember later.)
Anyway...above is a photo of Cory holding a hand rendered T-shirt that I found yesterday (between visits to see Margaret) folded up next to the Blue Bean Composition. It is dated 1993, so it is a rather late entry into my oeuvre of hand drawn T-shirts.
As I find more, either the actual T-shirts or photos of them, I'll post them here.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Blue Bean Composition and a Sprout-Butt Too!

I've been going through the jumble of bundles and bins that make up "The Beanworld Archives" and I've been finding all sorts of things from the past. I particularly like this piece from 1992 done on blue paper with marker and colored pencil.

One of the things that I have found most delightful about working in Photoshop is that it allows me to "think" in exactly the same way I always did with markers and colored pencils.
I did the composition below entirely in Photoshop--and to me anyway--it looks and feels exactly like the marker and pencils drawings I've always had so much fun doing.
I know most of you are thinking "Well...duhhhhhh." But one of the downsides of the last 15 years has been working with very talented artists who are so skilled in these programs that in order to accomplish commercial work--I never had to do anything for myself at all.

When I worked on Beanworld it was always the same process and materials--HB pencils on Bienfang 360 layout paper that I would then photocopy and blow up & down, mix & match, and cut & paste until the story arrived in its proper order and pacing.
I'm still working that way more or less. The fun I'm having is teaching myself how to ink digitally. I haven't faced as challenging a learning curve since I taught myself QuarkXpress on a Mac Classic in 1991. I love every minute of the aggravation as I feel my way around teaching myself this time around--although Gonzo and Tyler have been a big, big help with tips at work when I find myself back into an Adobe corner.

Oh, and when someone in the industry asked me if this meant I was no longer going to make more Beanworld Orphan drawings--my answer was "What? Are you kidding? Of course I am!"
I'm old enough that I probably will never be able to give up the joy of feeling the resistance of the texture of the paper against the tip of my drawing tool.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Cory's Mom

Margaret Brown, Cory's mom, after her successful hip repair procedure, took a turn for the worse and she has chosen to forgo any more treatment or seek any sort of rehabilitation. This was not unexpected--Margaret has known she had bladder cancer since February when she had a tumor removed.

She took a pass on chemotherapy and had spent the spring and summer living with us, spending a lot of time replanting our garden.

That her life was ending was not unexpected--it's that her hip injury wasn't anticipated.

Regardless, Margaret has made the decision to enter a hospice program in a skilled nursing facility.

Cory and I are determined to make her last days comfortable and as pain-free as possible.

I will tell you more when there is more to tell.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

It's Tantalizing Tuesday Teaser Time Again!

Mystery and Intrigue from the Sky!
Seems like an awful lot is going on up there this time around!
But then again...isn't that what Beans do?
Reach for the sky?

Cory's Mom

Margaret Brown, Cory's amazing mother, took a tumble and broke her hip yesterday. She's 80 years old and a tough nut but this is a big injury under the best of circumstances. She's in for some rough surgery but if anyone can do it...Margaret can!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Basil Wolverton: Producer of Preposterous Pictures of Peculiar People.

I learned about this show on Boing Boing and Cory and I went to go see it on Saturday. I've never seen so much original Basil Wolverton artwork in one place at one time in my entire life!
It's all from the collection of Glenn Bray. To the best of my recollection, I've never actually met Glenn Bray--but his lifetime passion for collecting the work and writing the histories about the work of artists including Wolverton, Carl Barks, and Harvey Kurtzman and others has been something I've been absorbing and enjoying for many years.
Wolverton's personal letterhead perfectly summed up the man's body of work: "Producer of Preposterous Pictures of Peculiar People."
The man had an odd-ball, weird-o sensibility that still seems fresh and vibrant fifty, sixty years after the ink was applied to the paper. Being able to get up really, really close and savor his inks was a priviledge and I soaked up the patterns and lines like a sponge. My mind was literally filled up by the time we had savored every piece and I needed to sit down and just think. I'm not kidding!
Cory laughed and said, "I don't know why you are always talking about other artists so much--I see so much Wolverton influence in your work, Larry."
And I think she is right.
I suspect because I really discovered Wolverton after I had already embarked upon Beanworld
that I've short-shrifted Wolverton's influence on specific aspects of the Hoi-Polloi Ring Herd, Gran'Ma'Pa, Sprout-Butts and the way I ink certain things in general. Looking at his work yesterday--I could see it and I could feel the influence his wacked-out sensibilities have had on me in the past and shall continue to in the future.
When I saw the book in the gallery shop--the lizard part of my brain shreiked "Larry must have! Larry must have NOW!" The Original Art of Basil Wolverton is a 272 page hardcover beauty chock full of superb reproductions of Wolverton's work. I plan on studying it for many hours and days to come.
If you find yourself anywhere near Orange County between now and October 21--take a side trip to Santa Ana. You'll be glad you did!
And thanks to Glenn Bray for being so persistent for so many years and amassing this treasure trove of important comics history.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Subglacial Lake Discovered in Antarctica! many cheezy monster movies have started with such a premise?
(Hmmmmmm...I dunno--I'm not Steve Bissette--but a LOT of them have kicked off with something mighty similar.)

A hidden lake under the ice..."a place of profound darkness and bitter cold. " Sounds really, really eerie to me--like HP Lovecraft kinda spine-tingling weird.
(Now this might be because I recently read "At the Mountains of Madness.")
Okay, okay. So my imagination is running away with me--but you guys know where I work and what kind of stuff we sometimes make--so it's easy to let my mind drift from a scientific article to pure fantasy.
Hey, it IS a pretty exciting discovery, isn't it?
"The environment is remarkably similar to the dark and cold ocean below the surface of Jupiter's ice moon Europa, so the discovery of life in Vostok could have interesting extraterrestrial implications."
My mind shoots back to Lovecraft again.
Oh well.

One last observation--has anyone else noticed how similar the lakes outline (shown above) is to a silhouette of the continent of Africa?
A cosmic clue perhaps?
(Calm down, Larry!)
"As for what sort of organisms might lurk in that exotic environment today, no one can really be certain."
Ummmm....I sure hope it isn't some sort of "thing that can not be described!"

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Plop! Plop! Fizz! Fizz!

Honestly, can you communicate a sales message any more clearly than this?
Check out the snazzy tropical drink umbrella and the sparkling bubbles from Speedy's wand.

Speedy Relief? You Bet!

Speedy Alka Seltzer is one of my favorite advertising icons NOT created by Leo Burnett.
(The others that immediately pop into my mind are Reddy Kilowatt and Mr. Peanut.)

Although the product had been marketed since the 1930s, it wasn't until the advent of television that Miles Laboratories thought they had a need for an animated character to help promote their product in the new medium.

Created at Wade Advertising in Chicago, the spunky little guy with his effervescent wand was originally named "Sparky."

Apparently an insightful Sales Manager at Miles Laboratories suggested the name "Speedy" to coincide that year’s promotional theme, “Speedy Relief.”

Speedy was featured in hundreds of television and print ads an I fondly remember enjoying his animated exploits as a kid.

I always liked that he was called "Prontito Alka Seltzer" in Latin America. I love the way it rolls off of the tongue when said aloud!

Here is an ad clearly from the '50s.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Alka Seltzer in Space!

The entire piece is pretty cool but the last minute
with the Alka-Seltzer is so cool--to ME anyway.
It's a bubble eat bubble world up there...
as bubbles battle it out for supreme dominance of the water sphere

It's Another Tantalizing Teaser Tuesday!

Another pencil sketch featuring Beanworld's toolmaker and and artist.
Wonder what Proffy has on her mind?
And does Beanish have time to help her?
After all, it's approaching midday.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Little Mischief (Edison, 1898/99)

I found this while looking for something else....what a gem!
It tells a micro-story with a begiining, a middle, and an end--in 28 seconds no less!
The Katzenjammer Kids got nothing on this girl!

"On The Road" Celebrates 50 Years In Print!

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Jack Kerouac’s legendary novel “On the Road.”

Kerouac didn’t write autobiography exactly. But he wrote about people. Places and things that he had experienced, imagined, fantasized, reconstituted, and hallucinated in a new bold style that he called “spontaneous bop prosody.” He wanted his writing to be created using the same thought and feeling that fueled bop jazz musicians.

Be spontaneous.
Do variations on themes.
Explore diverse harmonics
Never edit.
Never rewrite.
Just Go! Go! Go!

Kerouac himself wrote:
“...I was originating (without knowing it, you say?) a new way of writing about life, no fiction, no craft, no revising afterthoughts, the heartbreaking discipline of the veritable fire ordeal where you can't go back but have made the vow of 'speak now or forever hold your tongue' and all of it innocent go-ahead confession, the discipline of making the mind the slave of the tongue with no chance to lie or re elaborate...”

I’ve long thought that much of the 24-hour comic exercise is a variation on the spontaneous bop prosody theme.
Kerouac didn’t even want to pause to change sheets of paper in his typewriter, so he started writing on teletype paper creating his novels in long scrolls. The picture above is the original manuscript of “On the Road” written in 1951. It is 120 feet long spliced together with tape and reportedly contains no paragraph breaks.
I think I read “On the Road” for the first time during my senior year in High School in the late winter of 1969. I liked the book and although it didn’t really blow me away it did make a definite impression on me.
Enough of an impression that the following year, during my freshman year in art school, when I read “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,” I understood the significance of the Dean Moriarty character being based on Neal Cassady. I found it intriguing but didn’t explore it any further.
The following year, however, my friends and I started reading Kerouac in earnest. Not just “On the Road” but “The Town and the City,” Big Sur,” “The Subterraneans,” “Maggie Cassidy,” “Desolation Angels and ”Dr Sax.”
I liked some and a few were too complex for me to digest at the time, particularly “Dr Sax.” Kerouac’s prose in that novel was just too dense for my youthful brain power at the time.
Many years later, in the early 1980s, in a book store, I stumbled across a paperback edition of “Jack’s Book.” It was an oral history of Kerouac’s life and work by the people who knew him. These spellbinding first hand accounts rekindled my interest in Kerouac.
An keen interest.
Maybe it was because anecdotes in “Jack’s Book” offered up a sort of decryption key to stories he was telling.
Maybe because I was older and actually was equipped to understand the things he was writing about.

Maybe it was because, at that point in my life, I had learned how to read and appreciate more complex and challenging works than I was capable of at age twenty.
I don’t know for sure.
But I discovered that books like “Dr Sax” that I had previously found almost dense to the point of being incomprehensible now resonated with great clarity inside my imagination.
I’m going to write more about “Dr Sax” sometime in the next few weeks and how it influenced a certain Beanworld story I was working on at the time.