Saturday, February 26, 2011

Signpainter Lusts After Co-Worker

© Justin Green, Watercolor, Lampoon of Vermeer Painting, 18" x 24", 2001

  This was the cover of Signs of the Times Magazine, October 2001. If the painter if viewed with his hat worn backwards then he is perceived as a Gallant diligent craftsman. However, if his hat is on right, he personifies the Goofus described in the title.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Burlap Campaign of '10

 Coffee Strongman, Mixed Media, 17" x 28", 2010

   This series began as an accident. After knocking over a can of One-Shot Sign Painter’s Enamel, I had some burlap handy for the mop-up. Over a few seasons, the idea of using coffee sacks as the substrate for a varied edition of prints came to fruition. One of my sign clients, Coffee Emporium of Cincinnati, supplied me with a dozen. I began to notice the graphics and weaves on the various bags. They come in a wide range of textures, subtle colors, and graphics. The lettering on the sacks varies from being refined to crude and usually includes ambient marks added along its mysterious travels.

  In this series, the dominant head and figures are lino-carved elements that were stamped (or more accurately, stomped) into place. Colors and inks were stippled and painted; the black line was augmented with textile needles, which dropped little paths of ink onto the gnarly surface. Well into the project, I realized that the original bags were most likely sprayed through hand-cut stencils. Something tells me that work environment did not include respirators or cross-ventilation. I showed them in Canada at the Show and Tell Gallery. The venture met with limited commercial success. The owner is kindly storing them until I can raise the funds for their return freight. For now, I have been cured of my yen for working on such a rugged texture. But I still wonder about the chain of events that leads from the Earth to my exotic and tasty coffee. Tea, too.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Medical Illustration

On Father’s Day, 1990, I had a spectacular ladder accident in Sacramento, shattering my left heel. An orthopedic surgeon told me that his only recourse was to perform a common medical procedure: fusing the damaged bone to the ankle. As a result, my left foot would neither flex nor move laterally ever again. In addition to having a permanent Frankenstein limp, my sign painting career was about to be limited to in-house production (which by that year had been completely subsumed by computer vinyl technology). The cynical sawbones told me that I’d better inherit some money. My resourceful wife was able to find a brilliant young surgeon, Dr. George Lian, who was performing a new type of surgery. Using bone material from the hip, the ruined heel could be reconstructed. Then with stainless steel pins, it could be attached to the tibia, the workhorse bone of the lower leg. With prolonged physical therapy, it would be possible to regain near-normal traction.
  Over the long course of healing, I became friends with George and he enlisted me to illustrate his book on sports medicine. These are some of the drawings I did under his watchful eye. He patiently vetted me on the highly abstract shaping of the bones and muscles. An early visit to an actual operation (in full surgical mufti) didn’t help the project much, as there was too much blood and I had no idea what I should be observing. But it was neat to see that doctors working so efficiently under great time pressure with Steppenwolf cranked up. Sometimes they used fake German accents: “Ze schalpel, schnell!” said Chief Surgeon George.  He explained later that a bit of levity cuts the tension.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Strong Marriage of Images & Letters

Shake It Records of Cincinnati is one of the greatest surviving music stores in the country (not even “arguably,” it just IS! Google them and order something). I had the honor of doing the sign for the thriving family business, owned by Darren & Jim Blase. It has become a local landmark and I was delighted to see this beautiful young wedding party suddenly appear underneath my ladder while I was touching up the sign. I bounded into the store and proudly announced to Darren that my handiwork was providing a backdrop for nuptial rites. In a deadpan voice he said, “That’s the fourth one I know of.”