Philly-Bob’s Free-for-All 2017
One man's visual art, largely consisting of digital manipulations of images taken from my own photographs or downloaded from the Public Domain.
Portrait by Remo Frangiosa
Although I have been interested in art and graphic design all my life, I only began working seriously after I retired in 2010. The images in Philly-Bob's Free-for-All are digital manipulations of images. The images are either from the Public Domain or from my own archives of photos I have taken.
My images are strongly influenced by the optical textures I see when I close my eyes and by what I see when I dream. They are also influenced by the hallucinatory visions I saw under the influence of anaesthesia following open heart surgery.
I often use commercial art, illustration, and typography as a source of ideas.
For maximum effect with my images, click repeatedly on the image until it is full-size, which may be larger than your computer screen.
For maximum effect with my images, click repeatedly on the image until it is full-size, which may be larger than your computer screen.
I was travellin' down the road Feelin' hungry and cold I saw a sign sayin' Food and drinks for everyone So naturally I thought I would take me a look inside I saw so much food There was water coming from my eyes Yeah, there was ham and there was turkey There was caviar And long tall glasses With wine up to y'are And somebody grabbed me Threw me out of my chair Said "before you can eat You gotta dance like fred astaire" You know I can't dance you know I can't dance You know I can't dance you know I can't dance I can't dance I am a man of the road A hobo by name I don't seek entertainment Just poultry and game But if it's all the same to you Then yes, I will try my hand If you were hungry as me Then I'm sure you will understand Hmmmmmm, now wait a minute Of course I can dance Of course I can dance I'm sure I can dance I'm sure I can dance I can dance I can dance I really hit the floor Ah, it feels good Look at me dancing I did a two-step, quick-step and a bossanova A little victor sylvester and a rudy valentino You should have seen me moving Right across the floor Hand me down my tuxedo Next week I'm coming back for more I can dance Oh yes, I can dance Look at me dance on the floor movin' I feel good I can dance I can dance I can dance I can dance I can dance I can danceFeel better?
A butterfly gay all the summer would play with sunshine and flowers around but when summertime fled and the flowers were dead then a heart-broken butterfly lay on the ground A girl loves a boy when the sunshine's above and her heart sings with joy thru the summer of love for she never thinks of the winter of love She's just like the poor butterfly So shy thinking each flower will bloom forever but flowers always die.Sources:
"They seem to us when looking back like yesterday, The days of long ago when we were young. Across the village winds the old familiar way, the very same old songs are sung, the gossips chatting by the well-remember'd tree, the lovers roaming in the ling'ring summer sun. They talk of many things as once we did When we were twenty-one... And Shhhh, we'll soon forget if you are growing old or if you are twenty-one or if you are twenty-one."That last four-line phrase -- "And Shhhhh, we'll soon forget" -- I'd like to hear the music that goes with it.
Religion That is pure and undefiled For God and the Father is this: To visit orphans and widows In their afflictions And to keep one self Unstained from the world.A far cry from the Christianity of budget-makers Paul Ryan and Mike Pence, I might interject. You don't see much religion in my work, but I feel okay about this.
I follow up with some pages of lyrics to those songs, getting away from the content of the old photos and using them as design elements.
And so they say – "the incident dissolved" the love boat smashed up on the dreary routine. I'm through with life and [we] should absolve from mutual hurts, afflictions and spleen.Is that really a suicide note -- or just a poem written in a dark Russian mood?
DISTORTED CELEBRITY BEAUTIES
How does distortion work on show-business glamour girls? I chose some televised beauties of our time, and ran them through my distortion process.
DISTORTED CATALOG ILLUSTRATIONS & THE RETAIL APOCALYPSE
Besides the well-documented misadventures of the early Trump era, there is another worrying disturbance in the force -- the mass closings of American retail stores, sometimes called the "Retail Apocalypse." According to The New York Times, since October more than 89,000 American retail workers have lost their jobs (Link1). 3,500 stores are expected to close over the next several months, including Payless ShoeSource, hhgregg, The Limited, RadioShack, BCBG, Wet Seal, Gormans, Eastern Outfitters, and Gander Mountain (Link2). Department stores have lost 18 times more jobs than coal mining (Link3) since 2001.
This has been on my mind lately. Not just the hardships of the laid-off retail workers, low-paid in the first place, with an average $26,000 per year salary. But also, selfishly, the loss of a familiar place to be -- the "brick and mortar" retailer. What is America without stores that sell stuff? Without shopping?
Although I personally have adjusted to the new American economy -- I never worked in retailing, I don't own a car, and I often buy online, even groceries -- I fondly remember the postwar retail marketplace I was born into. Quiet expanses of neatly folded garments. Display cases of electronic gadgets. Cash registers, changing rooms, perfume counters, fluorescent lights. Those retail stores were a way for a middle-class white boy (who blended in) to wander freely and learn the names and prices of things -- a first rough approximation of how the world works. I especially recall those gleaming shopping malls -- the first ones opened when I was a teenager -- that were the site of so much sociable strolling.
In this mood, I chose Retro Retail as the theme of an experimental print series. These prints are taken from a 1921 catalog of home furnishings, entitled Let Hartman Feather Your Nest (Link4), from Chicago-based Hartman Furniture & Carpet. The company went bankrupt (Link5) during the Depression, in 1933.
That catalog, now in the public domain, opens with two pages of upbeat instructions on how to do business with the company:
These two instruction pages consist of twelve sections, each section composed of (1) a hand-lettered headline, (2) a pen-and-ink drawing, and (3) some text. I take the first two, the headline and the drawing, and then replace the text with a small illustration used inside the catalog to identify one of the items advertised. All this -- headline, drawing, catalog illustration -- goes into a little box in the lower right corner like a 3x5 card.
The larger portion of my image -- the rest of it, the heart, the art -- consists of a wild, joyful distortion of the catalog illustration of the advertised item, enlarged from its appearance in the little box. Enjoy....
RUSSIAN MAGAZINE ILLUSTRATIONS II
During the last two weeks, I have been been Facebook-silent because of the districtions of the continuing Washington scandals -- the possible collusion between Russian intelligence agents and the Trump presidential campaign. Tragically, I find the far-fetched story plausible. I personally observed the energetic and irrational postings of anti-Clinton sock puppets and fake news pushers. I also read tortured justifications of Russian aggression, including Trump-supported changes (Link1) to the Republican 2016 platform. I was also puzzled by how quickly after the election Trump got into an apparently pointless pissing match with the American intelligence agencies.
Finally, there's a logic to a connection between Trump and the Russian oligarchs. As I understand it, for some time American banks have refused to lend money to Trump. (I don't remember my source on this, but considering the man's record of fraud and bankruptcy, I find it believable.) Meanwhile, in Russia, kleptocratic oligarchs, after looting the imploding Soviet empire, amassed large sums of money which needed to be moved elsewhere for safekeeping. So it's kind of natural that credit-starved Trump turned to cash-rich Soviet tycoons for funding his grandiose projects of golf courses, hotels, and casinos.
There's two other factors here: (1) traditional Communism with its once-inspiring call for social justice has collapsed into some kind of grotesque highly-individualistic capitalism and (2) the pragmatic cooperation between Putin, Russia's intelligence agencies, and the new class of billionaire tycoons.
History alone makes me suspicious of Russia's rulers. My GI father spoke bitterly of World War II's Katyn Massacre (Link2), a massacre of some 25,000 members of the Polish officer corps by the Russian NKVD. The Soviet Union blamed it on the Nazis, but finally admitted responsibility fifty years later. In the same way, Putin denied any responsibility for aggression in Crimea and the Ukraine. Meanwhile, we read about the more recent assassinations of Putin opponents.
Altogether, these are "world-historical" events, and I've had to rethink a number of things, and Facebook postings seemed unimportant.
DISTORTED ORNAMENTS FROM DESTROYED POMPEII
From the 1887 Arte Pompeiana : monumenti scelti (Link1; Translation: "Art of Pompei: Selected Monuments"), a decorative tile floor (or is it a wall?); again, the distorted pattern fills my image, with the undistorted image tucked in the lower right along with explanatory text. Pompeii (Link2), you will recall, was the Roman city destroyed by the eruption of a volcano in 79 A.D.
The second image is another Pompeian mosaic sent through computer distortion filters, with the original inside the circle in upper left.
Third image seems to be a wall fresco, depicting Romulus and Remus with the wolf/lion of folklore, seen undistorted in lower right corner.
Fourth image, a wall panel, painted with an image of a winged huntress with spear, above a pair of goats. Original is shown in circle on mid-left.
Not sure what I'm doing here, but I'm enjoying it.
March 13-14, 2017
RUSSIAN MAGAZINE ILLUSTRATIONS
Still exploring the distortion of traditional images using graphic filters. Adding text and small original to make developis products,ment of image a little clearer. Here, I ran across a selection of Russian magazines, and since many of us are thinking about the issue of Russian influence on the recent presidential election, I decided to explore some images drawn from them. Of course, I can't read Russian and don't know how to type Cyrillic letters into Google Translate, so I'm pretty blind. Anyway, here, from a 1958 issue of Angara magazine (Link1), what appears to be a family relaxing in their living room. The Angara is a river in Siberia. NOTE: Remember to click on the image to enlarge enough that you can see the details of the small black-and-white source in the right-bottom corner.
Second image is a distorted soviet star emblem ("CCCP") from an illustration in a 1970 issue (Link2) of the same magazine.
Third image is a bas relief of what seems to be a blacksmith or armorer with some iron products, from a 1969 issue (Link3).
Fourth is a 1913 painting by Wassily Kandinsky, Composition VII from a 1990 issue of Pioneer magazine. (Link4). Here's what one critical source (Link5)said:
"Commonly cited as the pinnacle of Kandinsky's pre-World War I achievement, Composition VII shows the artist's rejection of pictorial representation through a swirling hurricane of colors and shapes. The operatic and tumultuous roiling of forms around the canvas exemplifies Kandinsky's belief that painting could evoke sounds the way music called to mind certain colors and forms. Even the title, Composition VII, aligned with his interest in the intertwining of the musical with the visual and emphasized Kandinsky's non-representational focus in this work. As the different colors and symbols spiral around each other, Kandinsky eliminated traditional references to depth and laid bare the different abstracted glyphs in order to communicate deeper themes and emotions common to all cultures and viewers.Note that the painting appeared in the kid's magazine Pioneer in upright, portrait mode, although the art books show it in sideways, landscape mode.
Preoccupied by the theme of apocalypse and redemption throughout the 1910s, Kandinsky formally tied the whirling composition of the painting to the theme of the cyclical processes of destruction and salvation. Despite the seemingly non-objective nature of the work, Kandinsky maintained several symbolic references in this painting. Among the various forms that built Kandinsky's visual vocabulary, he painted glyphs of boats with oars, mountains, and figures. However, he did not intend for viewers to read these symbols literally and instead imbued his paintings with multiple references to the Last Judgment, the Deluge, and the Garden of Eden, seemingly all at once."
A collage of pictures of flowers from the 1922 Hastings' Seeds Catalogue: newly sprouted crocuses. "Our earliest and by far most beautiful early Spring flower come from Fall-planted bulbs," the catalog explains. "The Crocus is the first flower to bloom in the Spring." Am considering entering this in our local Spring Flower exhibition.
March 11, 2017
DISTORTED COLONIAL CHINA CASE
I am continuing my exploration of computer distortion of ordinary images -- here a picture of a "Colonial China Case," a glass-doored wooden cabinet that can be installed into a wall. The image is taken from a wood products catalog (Link1). I am considering entering it into the Plastic Club's April DAILY LIFE & COMMUNITY: POINTS OF VIEW show; see prospectus (Link2). Met with my informal Sunday morning art critics group, who said that the version on the far left would not communicate adequately why it belongs in a show about daily life. Redid the image on the far right, with text and a larger picture of the cabinet.
The main distortion method is the Fractal Trace filter in the open-source image editing program GIMP with parameters -1, 0.5, -1, 1. Not sure where I am going with this, but I like the psychedelic detail. The series expresses some sense that we live in a world (especially the online world) in which the values of civility and reason have been distorted -- Roy Cohn's (Link3) dog-eat-dog world.
March 11, 2017
DISTORTED DINING ROOM INTERIOR
March 8, 2017
ANGEL VISITS A HOUSEWIFE
A built-in folding breakfast table (on right) made from "white" (untreated) pine from the catalog of cabinet-maker Premier standardized woodwork: the most complete line of practical cabinet work. (Link1) The catalog is undated -- probably from 1900-1920. The distorted version, on left, brings to mind the Christian (and Muslim) tale of The Annunciation (Link2), when an angel visits the virgin Mary to inform her that she would bear a son, to be named Jesus. Many Christians observe this event with the Feast of the Annunciation, coming up on Saturday, March 25 -- an approximation of the northern vernal equinox and nine full months before Christmas, the ceremonial birthday of Jesus.
March 7, 2017
ELEVATOR CIRCUIT PANEL
From the 1923 catalog of elevator company Waygood-Otis lifts, a photo of what is labelled as a "Direct Current Car Switch Control." Distorted version on left, original on right.
March 2, 2017
FOOTBALL MEMORABILIA FOR JAMIE
One of my relatives, a football fan, requested a composition based on images of the New England Patriots and their quarterback Tom Brady, who won the 2016 Super Bowl in overtime against the Atlanta Falcons. Myself, I was rooting for the Falcons, and I may have given the image a somewhat sinister look, since I consider Brady a cheating, egotistical superjock, with a rich man's politics and a supermodel wife. But I can see why a young girl would develop a crush on the winning team and even write fan letters to its handsome, 6'4" leader.
"Yeah, I get the Brady thing. They have dominated a long time.Sources:
This is a topsy-turvey world we are living in. Falcons should NOT have lost that game. The weird cosmic mojo is off kilter for sure.
The lesson seems like: Never turn off the TV because you will never guess what happens next -- Chicago Cubs, Brexit, Trump, Falcons blowing that lead, Cleveland, a sports powerhouse, screwed up Oscars, and a host of 80 degree days in February. Just plain weird, odd and disconcerting.
Incidentally, I was bothered as well by the two scandals of the Patriots. My kids ask me about it because they get grief in school about the "Cheatriots".
If you want to have at least some of your world view rocked as to the facts of the deflate-gate and spygate, check out these thorough accounts (links below). I would say a good portion of what the public thinks and believes they know is based on inaccurate accounts and bad PR spin.
You certainly don't have to change your mind about Brady the rich and powerful kid who has it all but the real bastard in all this is Roger Goodell (Link2), the football league commissioner. He is the very definition of power run amok and pissing all over the players union. Another fat cat dictator who is making up rules as he goes along. Link3 and Link4 point to discussion on the two big Patriot scandals, Deflategate and Spygate."
DISTORTED BLACK & WHITE WOOD HOUSE
Cover drawing from the 1927 Houses of wood for lovers of homes (Link1) by the Arkansas Soft Pine Bureau. Again, the left-hand drawing is the distorted version, the right-hand drawing is the original. There is a tiny version of the original in the lower right-hand corner of the distorted version. The characteristic shape in the center is a result of applying Gimp's Fractal Trace filter with default settings; the documentation explains that the utility "transforms the image with the Mandelbrot fractal: it maps the image to the fractal." It looks to me like the skin of animal.
February 27, 2017
DISTORTED BATHROOM WASH-BASIN
Here's another one of my distortions, expressing what? Memories of psychedelic visions from fifty years ago?. A sense of the ordered post-war political world dissolving after Brexit and Trump? This material universe melting away as I leave for the next? Whatever...
The original, on the right, is from a 1927 catalog, Sanitary Appliances by Adamsez, a British company still in business. It shows a two-legged "lavatory" or sink. The hose at top center is a shampoo fitting. The reformed product is on the left, with a tiny version of the original in the lower right corner.
February 27, 2017
DISTORTED TABLE, WINDOW & CUPBOARD
"Slinkied" -- i.e., distorted, recolored, etc. -- illustration from a 1928 catalog by a paint company, Detroit White Lead Works, entitled "Paints, varnishes, stains, enamels, lacquers (Link1). The picture shows a room inside a house with pink walls and green furniture. It is advertising the company's line of "Sanitary Enamels." Instead of my usual trilobite/safety-pin logo, I include a very reduced version of the original in the lower left corner, a temporary move as I'm figuring out what to do with these exercises in psychedelic warping. Warped version on left, original on right.
3/23/2017: Third image is another warped version which I entered in the Plastic Club's April "Daily Life and Community Show" show.
Link1: archive.org/details/DetroitWhiteLeadWorks February 26, 2017
Distorted New Refrigerator
An illustration of fashionable folks in evening dress admiring a refrigerator from a 1935 brochure General Electric presents a new deluxe monitor top refrigerator (Link1) (The name "Monitor-top" is a reference to the cylinder atop the refrigerator, like the cyclindrical cannon turrets of the Civil War vessel, U.S.S. Monitor.)
Slinkied (i.e., distorted) image is on left, original on right.
February 25, 2017
Lady in Yellow before Bathroom Medicine Cabinet
An illustration of a woman in yellow nightgown standing in a red and green bathroom, from a 1939 home supplies catalog (Link1). Distorted (shall we call it "slinkied"?) version is on left, the original is on right. Notice odd shape of white in middle left of modified version; it represents an overlay of white on a significant area. I have known three artists -- Stuart Carstadter, Ted Gutswa, and Steve Giovanni -- who had a "hobby" of buying ordinary tourist postcards and turning them into pieces of great interest -- art -- by tasteful, intelligent patches of white. I may start experimenting with this to offset an excess of detail in some of my pieces.
February 25, 2017
Door to Perception
Distortion, duplication, recoloring and ornamentation of a single picture (on right) of a Pine front door with glass windows, from a 1935 woodwork catalog (Link1).
February 24, 2017
Scrambled Tent Cottage Interior
Another study in distortion effects. Teacher Alice Meyer-Wallace encouraged me to continue in this direction. Original, undistorted image, is on right. An upcoming Plastic Club show has the subject of domestic life, and I will consider the twisted left-hand image as a possible entry.
It is from a 1930 brochure advertising Kenyon Take Down Houses (Link1), a quick-assembly combination of tent and cabin, called "the little brown bungalow"; it was advertised in a 1914 Popular Mechanics at $195 for five rooms. The illustration is combined with leaded glass from a 1924 catalog by "Revised" international art glass catalog domestic: showing designs of the highest grade art glass (Link2).
February 24, 2017
Power Hand Saw on Tile and Mirror
Working with distortion more. My elaborate frames seemed to be getting larger and larger. Now I'm letting them become the whole picture, replacing the starting image. Here, on the left, is my full-distortion all-frame image. The starting image is on the right; it already combines three other images, from a power tools catalog (Link1), a tile catalog (Link2), and a furnishings catalog (Link3).
The subject brings to mind my memories of the 1950's, when Sears was prospering and its line of solidly-built Craftsman tools would last a lifetime -- not like today's hollowed-out company (Link4) with its cheap plastic tools, ideologically-destroyed by a greedy Ayn Rand worshipper.
February 23, 2017
Zombie, Fan, Ceiling
February 22, 2017
Jewel with Radio on Staircase
February 20, 2017
Entertaining New Series -- But Sneaky Business Plan
Unwinding after a stressful weekend, curled up on couch with Janice for Sunday night television. Casual, forbidden Sunday dinner composed of orange slices, dark chocolate, popcorn, and intoxicants. Watched a string of four superior television shows: Homeland, Billions, The Good Fight, and John Oliver's Last Week Tonight. Pictured is a studio collage of three actresses from The Good Fight: from left: Cush Jumbo, Christine Baranski, and Rose Leslie. I respect the artist's composition, sparing use of color, and the suggestive finger sign in the far-right picture of character Maia, a lesbian. It's a promising, fast-paced drama. But the corporate folks running it apparently plan on switching it soon from cable to pay streaming service. You can get comfortable in Trumpland for an evening, maybe, but don't for a minute forget that our corporate overlords, freed from any meaningful government regulation and from any organized consumer voice, are diligently planning their next consumer scam.
February 20, 2017
Bejeweled Zombie Girl in Library
February 19, 2017
Owl Dingbat on Jewelry
February 18, 2017
Old Man Confronts Image on Roof
February 16, 2017
Hotel Entrance (SF), Library (NY)
February 16, 2017
Fossilized Plant Under Ornamental Iron
February 15, 2017
Early Electrical Apparatus
February 15, 2017
HAPPY VALENTINE'S SNAIL
February 14, 2017
THE TWITS AND TOFFS HAVE TAKEN OVER
Entitled, Richie Rich (Link1) white boys have taken over the world. Not just Trump and his brood. This is Ronald Coyne, a Cambridge University law student and a member of the Cambridge Conservative Union, who made headlines (Link2) in England for posting a video on social media. The video showed Coyne, walking home drunk on a cold February night after a fancy-dress event. Coyne was asked for change by a 31-year-old homeless man. Coyne held up a 20-pound ($50) note and said "I'll give you some change. I've changed it into fire." Coyne is said to be related to a leader of the pro-Brexit Scottish National Party.
According to Dictionary.com, a twit is "an insignificant, silly, or bothersome person" and a toff is "a stylishly dressed, fashionable person, especially one who is or wants to be considered a member of the upper class." Two words I have never used before.
February 13, 2017
Gypsy Marina and Chinese Ornament
February 12, 2017
Photo from WWII Gypsy Identity Card
February 11, 2017
Glass and Botanics
February 11, 2017
Off-Center Over Fractal Trace
February 10, 2017
Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald
Been watching Z, the Amazon series about the life of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, shown in a studio photograph. A reminder of Flappers and the Jazz Age. And a depressing reminder that wealth, education, beauty, success and talent aren't enough for a happy life, when you mix in marital infidelity and severe social alcoholism.
February 9, 2017
Nazi WWII Propaganda
February 9, 2017
PORTRAIT TEACHER'S DRAWING STANCE
Photo by Bob Moore
February 8, 2017
SECOND 2017 PORTRAIT SITTING
From my latest sitting at Remo Frangiosa's Plastic Club portrait workshop, from left:
HORSE-DRAWN PAVER GANG
February 6, 2017
HOMAGE TO MARSDEN HARTLEY
February 5, 2017
February 3, 2017
February 2, 2017
First Sitting in Portrait Class
Snapshots of works in progress taken (with permission of the artists) from my first sitting at Remo Frangiosa's Portraits class at the Plastic Club. The first picture is interesting because the artist recycled a canvas she used in a previous drawing session, so my mug is superimposed on a preliminary sketch of a young woman reclining. (An old man's dream.) The second image is by Dante Celia, a museum guard by day, artist by night. My next sitting is Tuesday, 2/7.
February 1, 2017
Ribs the Radiator
A collage of illustrations from the 1893 Hopson & Chapin Mfg Co.'s boilers and radiators for warming and ventilating by hot water (Link1), showing radiators and a furnace boiler. Instead of my usual trilobite signature/logo, I used an illustration of a recently discovered 450-million-year-old trilobite that was discovered with fossilized eggs inside. (Link2)
Following my new work pattern, I am reusing the source from October 13, 2012.
Second image is based on a suggestion by my teacher, Alice Meyer-Wallace, that the image reminded her of a game board, such as Parchesi. Source:
January 31, 2017
Death of Richard Russo Character
My favorite fiction writer these days is Richard Russo (Link1), who has had a fortunate writerly collaboration with the world of film (Link2). One of Russo's most memorable fictional characters is an angst-filled senior citizen bad boy. In the book Everybody's Fool and in the book and movie Nobody's Fool, this irresponsible but stout-hearted soul was Sully. In Russo's book and television series Empire Falls, the character was named Max. Sully/Max were memorably interpreted by Paul Newman (Link3).
Anyway, recent current events sent me into a depression, and I turned to Russo's latest book, the 500-page, 2016 Everybody's Fool for "bibliotherapy." Russo describes the death of Sully (by heart attack, after outwitting the odious town bully) on page 448 this way:
"So, he thought. This was how it ended, how it had to end. The day had finally come when putting one foot in front of the other was simply fucking impossible, when the forward motion he's depended on his entire life failed him and he it. On your feet, Soldier, he commanded himself, but his body was all done taking orders. The entire world, it seemed, was now reduced to silence and pain, the latter intense, the former unendurable. With the last of his strength he took out his grandfather's stopwatch. The ticking, when he depressed the stem, was loud and strong, a comfort, though it was also the sound of time running out.I like the lack of theology and romance in Sully's end. The stopwatch carries a symbolic weight as the talisman Sully once gave to his son to help the boy overcome fear.
"Footsteps approached, but Sully didn't hear them."
A collage of detailed pencil drawings from an 1850 book of engineering drawings for Dutch windmills, Theoretisch en practisch molenboek (Link1). This is the same source as the very first image from Philly-Bob's Free-for-All on October 10, 2012.
Quixotic Obsession is an idea which I elaborated in a short story once, the idea that middle-aged men can develop a mental disorder in which they take on an impossible or impractical task, a kind of jousting at windmills in the manner of the cognitively-impaired, romantic fellow in Cervantes' Don Quixote. Sometimes my activities -- most recently these images -- seem to be an old man's Quixotic Obsession. The looping around to a prior source represents an attempt to reduce the day-to-day workload of this endeavor.
January 29, 2017
Ink Drawing Reimagined
From an 1895 issue of the Bulletin du Muséum national d'histoire naturelle (Link1), an ink drawing of a plant, thoroughly reordered, recolored, and reconfigured.
January 28, 2017
A Profusion of Patterns
In the 1888 report from a Russian archaeological expedition to the Caucasus, Materīaly po arkheologīi Kavkaza : sobrannye ėkspedit︠s︡īi︠a︡mi Imperatorskago Moskovskago Arkheologicheskago Obshchestva (Link1), there are two pages of color illustrations which, I believe, represent fabric patterns or wall stencils. Here, I superimpose both pages. It's a confusing mess -- but sometimes the world just seems a confusing mess, doesn't it?
The pattern I used in yesterday's image, Maroussia, Superheroes, Pattern appears in this version at the top left of the image, the blue, orange, yellow and green semicircles.
January 27, 2017
Maroussia, Superheroes, Pattern
In the background a computer wallpaper collage of superheroes fighting each other from a recent New Movies World (Link1). In front of that, an abstract textile design from an 1888 collection of finds from a Russian archaeological expedition to the Caucasus Mountain, Materīaly po arkheologīi Kavkaza : sobrannye ėkspedit︠s︡īi︠a︡mi Imperatorskago Moskovskago Arkheologicheskago Obshchestva (Link2). Perched on top of the collage, three duplicated figures of the plucky Ukrainian heroine, Maroussia, with flowers gathered in her apron, from the 1890 Maroussia: A Maid Of Ukraine (Link3).
January 26, 2017
Stage Hypnotism and Door Panels
A photograph of a woman in evening dress being hypnotized by a man in a tuxedo from a June, 1930 issue of True Detective Mysteries (Link1). The image appears in an ad with the headline "You Can Learn Hypnotism in Five Days ... or No Cost." Her image is superimposed (three times) on a collage of window panels from two wooden front doors, taken from the 1924 catalog of McMillen Millwork (Link2).
This will be my entry in the Plastic Club's Out of the Box show. This image is not really a radical departure ("out of the box") from my usual work. But it does represent a change in one of my artistic principles of practice. I messed with the proportions! I used Photoshop's Image Size with Constrain Proportions turned off to stretch the image out to fit in a mat that I used in assembling a glass, mat, and wooden frame for a previous image. That's the second image. Generally, I hate when people stretch images to fit graphic design rectangles. It would have been better to pay for a new frame and mat, but I'm feeling -- complicated, intense.
I also didn't use the usual layers of DreamscopeApp filters. Just in time -- they want to start charging $9.99 per month.
January 25, 2017
Maroussia in Battle
From a French translation of a Ukrainian children's book I described in an earlier Free-for-All entry.
January 23, 2017
Little Girl with Vaccine Scar in Dark Woods
NA In these last dread-filled days before the inauguration of Donald Trump, I have been depressed and listless. One day this week I didn't even go outside. (I hear the Trump alt-right meanies, Oh, poor libtard, special snowflake!).
Attempting to escape this sluggishness, I am (1) going to attend at least one, maybe two, anti-Trump demonstrations; (2) I have begun reading a novel Everybody's Fool by one of my favorite American realists, Richard Russo; (3) I will drag my ambition-less ass to the gym.
Photo by Janice R. Moore
January 18, 2017
WAR WIDOW KISSES SOLDIER'S PICTURE
From an 1873 La Mosaïque: revue pittoresque illustrée de tous les temps et de tous les pays (Link1,Google Translation: "The Mosaic: picturesque illustrated magazine of all times and all countries"), an engraving from a painting entitled Mon Brave!" showing a young woman with flowing hair kissing a picture on a wall of her dead husband or fiance. Janice points out that there is a physical resemblance between the war widow and herself, with the curly hair.
January 15, 2017
RIP, Robert R. Allen
For almost a decade, I've had a chance to share space and time with Bob Allen, a small, quiet man with significant physical handicaps. He was a bit of a mystery man, who filled his life with fantastical "Outsider Art." As a young man, Bob had been buddies with underground cartoonist Vaughn Bode. Bob was a man of few words, but he gravitated toward the welcoming communities of the Philadelphia Ethical Society and The Plastic Club. He attended the Plastic Club's Thursday morning "Open Studio" workshop, where he worked silently producing bizarre compositions, which occasionally sold. He loved to get his welcoming hug from Janice upon arrival at the workshop. Daily life was hard for Bob, but he was stubborn and never asked for help. One of the things he was stubborn about (unfortunately) was his drawing medium -- he doggedly stuck to cheap 19-cent ball-point pens. But his fellow students were finally able to convince him to at least upgrade from cheap lined notebook paper to larger artist-quality paper. Bob died last year, and Janice is organizing a show of his work in the Plastic Club's basement gallery next month.
January 14, 2017
SITTING FOR PORTRAIT CLASS AGAIN
One of the advantages of hanging around with artists is that you get more than your share of portraits.
Latest news is that I've been asked to serve as model for two upcoming sessions (1/31, 2/5) of Remo Frangiosa's Portraits class at the Plastic Club.
I sat for that class once before, in September 2015, and above are five of my snapshots of the work of that talented group of students of portraiture. The snapshots were taken during my breaks from the rigorous 20-minute sittings. Unfortunately, I don't have the names of the students. The process of sitting is physically and psychologically stressful. Here are my comments after the 2015 session:
"Those 20-minute stretches of silent stillness was the closest I ever come to meditation. Given my pathetic compulsion to "do" things with my time, I figured out that it was a good chance to practice my Roman Room memory techniques to write stanzas of poetry. First day, I wrote a poem called "Hollow Tube." Second day, I wrote notes on the childhood cottage that I use as my Roman Room. Ended up the second session in deep depression, remembering that cottage and realizing that my relative social and economic status and financial security has declined from that of my parents at the equivalent age."Acquiring another portrait, I traded a piece of my work with a visiting artist from Toronto, Meri Collier, who did this sketch of me (titled "Bob's Your Uncle") during a Thursday morning open workshop in April 2016.
GERMAN NATURAL HISTORY ILLUSTRATIONS
From the 1899 Das Leben der Binnengewässer (Link1; "The Life of Inland Waters"), a color plate showing worms and mollusks. (May turn into a series.) The largest entity, in the center, is Anodonta, a freshwater mussel. In front of that is a Painter's mussel, so called because its shell made it a good paint holder. Center left bottom is a piscicola geometra, a fish leech.
The key (in German) to the life forms shown is on the image's right.
January 13, 2017
In my survey of public domain documents, I am frustrated by seeing so many Arabic-language books, with their elegant swirling alphabets. Since I can't read them, I'm reluctant to use them, because they may be calling for some horrible religious intolerance. But I'm the poorer for my ignorance of Arabic. In the back of my head, I toy with the idea of learning Arabic, although I'm not sure my brain has enough flexibility left. Anyway, with this in mind, I ran across a simple chart explaining the Arabic alphabet, Summarised Tajweed Chart (Link1). Tajweed (or Tajwid) refers to the rules for reading the Koran aloud.
Several charts are superimposed, so they're not readable except when seen close-up.
January 12, 2017
WORKING DRAWINGS FOR MOVIE SCENARIO
From a 1929 issue of The American Cinematographer (Link1), two hand-sketches illustrating a cinematic effect for a single scene in the short silent horror movie, The Fall of the House of Usher (Link2), based on the Edgar Allen Poe story. In the top rectangle, at the beginning of the scene, a woman runs down some stairs against painted scenery. The scene continues, dissolving, in the bottom rectangle, into a closeup of the woman and the stairs.
January 11, 2017
A FAILED DEMOCRACY AND FINE SHOES
The background is an art piece by Julian Palacz (Link1) entitled "Algorithmic Search for Love," from a recent issue of Digimag (Link2), a journal of "digital art and electronic culture."
The foreground is a shoe -- the suede-heeled Aquazzura Disco Thing from an advertisement in a recent issue of the English fashion magazine Living Edge (Link3). The advertising copy enthuses (in fractured English syntax and punctuation):
"The glittering sequin pom-poms and oh-so-on-trend shade of these glorious sandals make them the perfect car to bar to dance floor solution for SS17 and beyond."(SS17 means the Spring/Summer fashion season in the year 2017. The shoes cost 615 British pounds or $750, sold at the high-end English department store Selfridges (Link4).
Our Lady of Melancholy
An illustration from the cover of a 1910 Portuguese religious pamphlet A Senhora Da Melancolia: Avatares de um Ateu (Link1; Google translation: "The Lady Of Melancholy: Avatars of an Atheist") by Portugese poet Antonio Gomes Leal.
The anguished, plaintive feel of the image appealed to me. In these last days leading to the presidency of a man laughably unsuited for the task, I am listless and depressed. There is not yet a clear and convincing opposition alternative available. The liberals have turned the Democratic Party into a cozy system for trading favors to identity politics brokers in return for votes. (Note that white heterosexual males are NOT part of the identity politics game, and scapegoating of that group is, if not encouraged, at least not discouraged.) I am not moved by other groups' opposition strategies. The anarchists who derailed Occupy are tactically hopeless; and the ultral-leftists are tarnished with Putin's blessing. Meanwhile, much of the media is pretending to a normality that I do not feel. An exhausted Bernie Sanders has not yet offered an across-the-board strategy. Obama may also be a leader, along with Robert Reich and Elizabeth Warner. I hope eventually someone steps up.
Meanwhile, I guess I'll just keep turning forgotten and neglected images that have passed into the public domain into -- what? -- pretty pictures, I guess. Like I say, I am listless and depressed.
January 9, 2017
Girl Hides Inside a Ceramic Fish
An illustration from the 1899 Zodiac Stories (Link1), a collection of stories by Blanche Mary Channing, each story structured around one of the astrological signs of the Zodiac. Here is an illustration for Pisces, showing a little Japanese Girl named Cherry-Bloom who snuck inside the castle of the Dragon and hid inside a ceramic fish to observe the goings-on.
January 7, 2017
Movie Magic Techniques
From a 1936 issue of American Cinematographer (Link1), two developments in movie technology. Top, a plastic make-up "clay" is used to sculpt the face of actor Lionel Barrymore (left) into the character of former President Andrew Jackson (right). Bottom, four new MovieFlood bulbs for technicolor lighting from General Electric-Mazda.
January 6, 2017
ChemicalWarfare Plant & Latch
From a 1937 propaganda magazine by the German Ministry of War, Wehrmacht (Link1), a photograph alleged to show Russian workers preparing chemical warfare agents. Superimposed on that is a drawing of a cabinet door latch, from a 1955 catalog of National builders hardware (Link2).
January 6, 2017
Syrian Orphans Weaving Rug
An old photograph used on the cover of a 2011 book about Syria, The Emergence Of Minorities In The Middle East (Link1). The original source of the photo is the French Albert Kahn Museum (Link2), where the photo is captioned "Orphans Making a Rug, Damascus, 1921" I like the fact that one of the four orphan girls turns around to level a look at the photographer.
January 4, 2017
Seeking Help in an Old-time Hardware Store
A woman customer in a crisp house dress handles a hoe (Link1) recommended by a hardware store salesman in a bow tie -- back in the days before hardware stores became cavernous big-box hangars and older salesmen were replaced with clueless kids. The picture is from an undated (but clearly late 40's or early 50's) catalog from the Union Fork and Hoe Company (Link2) of Columbus, Ohio.
In my nostalgic reconstruction, the salesman, a retired schoolteacher, carefully explains to the housewife the differences between various types of hoes (field hoes, garden hoes, meadow hoes, scuffle hoes, mattock hoes, mortar hoes, and so on) and helps her select the right one.
I have fond memories of those neighborhood hardware stores with oil-stained wood tables and walls crammed with product. In my lifetime, I spent a lot of time seeking help in hardware stores. If you could figure out how to describe your situation in words or gestures or crude napkin drawings, chances are that the salesman could tell you how to fix it -- but you had to overcome the tendency to be too intimidated to ask follow-up questions.
January 4, 2017
New Year Reorganization
As another calendar page flutters away -- my 72nd -- it's time to put away last year's Philly Bob's Free for All into the 2016 Archive. I also insert a link to that archive in the upper right corner of the masthead, along with other years. And begin another Philly Bob's Free for All -- the 2017 version!
NA January 3, 2017
ARCHIVE: Webpage Proprietor's Portraits
Time to change my image at top of this web page. The new image is a small pencil portrait done by Remo Frangiosa. It was done while I sat for Remo's portrait class over a two-week period at Philadelphia's historic Plastic Club in September, 2015.
The second image is a larger painting I commissioned from the Plastic Club's Andy Hoffmann.
Next are two other images also used as masthead portraits. Third image is an iPad self-portait in a coffee shop (approx. 2014). It is probably the best representation of my revulsion at the aging process and my sadness at the prospect of diminishing cognitive powers.
Fourth is an attempt to limit portrait to the fewest number of facial features and still be recognizable (approx. 2012). (Sorry: unlike the other images on this page, these masthead pictures don't enlarge when clicked...)
For other images from the portrait class sitting, see entry for September 22, 2015 -- you'll have to click on the "2015 Archive" link at the top of this page.