I’m Resurfacing

The exhibition of commercial artifacts bearing Whitman’s image, called Walt Whitman: The Commercialization of an American Original, is curated by a longtime collector of Whitman memorabilia named Ed Centeno, whom I met in 2005 when he commissioned a drawing from me showing Whitman’s spirit hovering over my characters Wendel and Ollie as they read the poet’s classic Leaves of Grass and snuggle. (Scroll down this blog post to see the drawing I’m referring to.

The exhibit opened on May 24, which means I’m being decidedly less than prompt in telling you about it. But if there’s a chance you’ll be touring Long Island soon, you’ll be relieved to know that Ed’s fascinating artifacts (and my own original artwork) will continue to be on display until August 31.

At left:
Ed Centeno shares his knowledge about Whitman with exhibition attendees.

Below:
Ed poses with my framed original.

Below:
The drawing I did for Ed four years ago showing Wendel and Ollie communing with the poet.

A side benefit of participating in my college alma mater’s Alumni Art Exhibition earlier this summer was being made aware of the fascinating, endlessly inventive, and humor-filled artwork of fellow Birmingham-Southern grad Don Stewart, who contacted me to suggest I send a comics page south to be part of the group show.

It wasn’t exactly my intention to bail out of blogging for an entire month, but that seems to be what I’ve done. There’s something about applying the final touches to big projects that totally consumes your attention and often leaves no room at all in your head even for putting together the simplest kinds of sentences describing those activities for loyal blog-readers to peruse.

In this case I’ve been polishing up graphics, finalizing page layouts, and completing supplementary text for a new book collection of old gay-themed comic strips that should become available for online purchasing within the next week or three, depending on how swiftly the wheels turn at Lulu.com (the same print-on-demand self-publishing site that I used last year to put out Felix’s Friends), and how briskly my application for ISBN registration gets processed.

The new book will be called From Headrack to Claude, and since I’m telling you this in a relatively G-rated blog environment I must add this note of caution for the curious: many of the comics compiled in this book were originally drawn for adults-only underground comic book and are definitely not recommended for the faint of heart. Or for children.

Anyone who wants to be among the first to know when From Headrack to Claude becomes available can pay regular visits to the book’s Facebook page. (You don’t have to be a Facebook member to view this page, but Facebook members who join the group will receive an actual notification when the book comes out.)

Now to catch up on some of the things that, if the book hadn’t kept me so distracted, I would have blogged about during the last month.

Walt Whitman: The Poet as a Commercial Icon

In times past, the face of 19th Century Poet Walt Whitman may have appeared on as many commercial product packages as Betty Crocker. He was just so darned folksy-looking and confidence-inspiring that you couldn’t help wanting to eat any beans that came in a can with his face on the label!

The box of tea you see below wasn’t one of those products, of course. It’s just a fictional Whitman product that I was asked to invent to serve as a promotional graphic for an exhibition of bona fide Whitman products now on display at the Walt Whitman Birthplace State Historic Site in West Hills, NY.

Browsing through Don’s image-rich web site will give you a taste of what this guy’s fertile imagination has to offer, but to fully grasp the details or his visual wit you may want to track down his beautifully produced hardcover book (see above). It’s the newest addition to my own library and I’m happy to report that there’s a gem on every page.

Don was a surgeon by profession, incidentally, before he strayed from the medical fold and turned to producing art full time. Below is his visual reflection on the life he left behind.

Believe it or not, Don executes his subtly rendered drawings not with high-end graphic tools but with lowly ballpoint pens! I’m in awe! Who knew so much graphic potential resides in that Bic you do your doodles with while some customer service number has you on hold?

Let’s Get Candid

Our neighbor Zach Noel whipped out his cell phone and snapped this shot of me and Eddie as we left for the airport to fly to Portland in May. Taking photos with telephones! Making fine art with ballpoint pens! What is this modern age coming to?

As you can see, my Ben Franklin hairstyle is coming along well. If I persevere in nurturing this Founding-Father affect, my portrait may well soon qualify for display on U.S. paper currency of some obscure and rarely used denomination.

Zach and his girlfriend Lydia Reyburn graciously moved into our house temporarily to provide on site dog-sitting services while we were traveling, thus sparing Lulu the canine disorientation that goes with extended stays in a kennel.

And while I’ve got your attention, I should let you local readers of my blog know that artwork by Zach will be part of an upcoming group show at Elf Parlor (303 Ashlund Street). The opening reception for the show will be next Tuesday, July 21, from 8-10 PM.

Below left: Zach’s telephone captures Lulu during an uncharacteristically (when she has a camera pointed at her) tranquil moment. Below right: Neighbor dog Picalilly pays Lulu a courtesy call.

About Howard

I'm a cartoonist and writer, best known for my graphic novel, Stuck Rubber Baby, and my comic strip from the 1980s, Wendel.
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2 Responses to I’m Resurfacing

  1. Looking forward to that book!

  2. You guys are so gosh-darn cute! (Wait, does that language mean I won’t be able to handle the new book?)