Archive | April, 2012

Dear Diary: Episode Two, Boys in the Park

30 Apr

As I revealed in the last “Dear Diary” Post I have acquired two diaries, one, a five year diary written in the years 1969 and 1970, and one written around 2001.  They are both written by girls around the same age, but of course they have vastly different content and writing styles.  The first contains entries that are rather brief and succinct, while the second goes into many juicy details about boys and getting in to trouble and stuff.  In this episode, I have selected two entries wherein each girl talks about a boy she has a crush on.  As I said before, the 1960s diary, written by a girl named Valerie, contains entries that are very short and to the point, and mention very little about who her friends are, but as I read along, a boy named Vince starts to enter the picture, and a very sweet and timid affection seems to develop between them.  Let’s join Valerie, her life already in progress, on May 31st, 1970:

“Was all day with Vince at the park, kissed me, watched TV, went to Vince’s bed.”

At first when I read this, the lack of punctuation at the end there made me think that she had gone to Vince’s bed, you know, with Vince.  But I think she forgot the comma, and just meant to say that she went to bed at the end of the day, an obvious assumption one make’s about anyone’s day, but an event she nevertheless felt important to end most of her diary entries with.  After this entry she starts to write about Vince a lot, even though just two weeks ago, on May 16 she wrote that she had kissed Rich at Cindy’s party!  You go girlfriend!

Valerie's five year diary

The second diary has much longer, rambling entries and is therefore much juicier.  I’ve gathered from my reading that at the time the unnamed writer had a boyfriend named Devin, but that didn’t stop her from meeting a boy she had a crush on named Christian at a local park in this undated entry:

“Christian paged me and I phoned him and we met in the park.  He was wearing this pinkish tank top that said “Black Hills”, blue trousers rolled up at the cuff and 20 holed doc’s  He has this really cute haircut that’s longer on one side and swept over his forehead.  He dresses, like, better than me.  While I was with Tara (seems to be the writer’s best girlfriend- ladyheart) I was asking her if I was evil for meeting this boy but she said not if I had good intentions.  He was a really nice guy, and I was really comfortable talking to him, but by the end of the night I was thinking he was gay.  Maybe I’m being stereotypical, but he sold weed in these pale pink bags, he was a really good dresser, he works at this gallery “ArtSystem”, and when we were talking about graffiti he said his tag name was “Sugar”  Oh, and he said that these thug guys in his neigbourhood called him a fag.  Later Tara said that he was just an art fag, not gay.  I don’t know.  It would be a shame for all women if he was gay.  He is so beautiful.  I find him very fascinating.  I hope me and him can be friends.  He says Artsystem has the craziest parties.  Maybe he’ll invite me to one.  I know where he lives.  It’s right, like two doors away from the “El Mocambo” (a now defunct legendary  Toronto nightclub- ladyheart)  He said he grew up up in the suburbs and he coudln’t take it so he used to just stay with friends and stuff, like wherever he ended up.  He was telling me about this one time when he was waiting for someone in Kensington Market really early in the morning, and all the meat stores were getting their deliveries and he was telling me about when he saw these huge stacks of beef carcasses that the delivery guy was unloading, and he was picking them up, one by one and slinging them over his shoulder, and sometimes he would hit his head with them, and carry them into the store, and come out and do it again, and he was completely covered in blood on his uniform.  He said it was the most hilariously morbid scene he ever witnessed.”

Wow, leave it to a guy to tell a gross story like that on a date.  Or could it be called a date?  The writer does have a boyfriend.  What do you think, dear reader?  Were her intentions good?  Should she have gone and met this boy in the park?  I think we’ve all seen what the romantic atmosphere of a park can lead to based on Valerie’s diary entry above.  Her innocent kiss led her right into Vince’s bed.

The Juicier Diary

Street Art:More Newspaper Box Fun

27 Apr

Newspaper boxes seem to be a favorite spot for public art (see my last Street Art post “Street Art: Monster Box”).  Many boxes have simple (and sometimes poorly done) tags and printed stickers on them, but the newspaper reading public are often treated to awesome colourful,  handmade stickers with imaginative lettering.  Recently I spotted a really cool sticker on a NOW magazine  box ( a local weekly alternative paper) which I was so compelled to share with you that, finding myself without my camera, I unscrewed the bolts holding the plastic sheet that the sticker was affixed to and took it with me.  Though it’s probably bad art karma to take public art and hoard it for oneself, I will bravely accept the consequences so that we may all bask in the glory of this sticker:

The sticker was on the plastic sheet that displays a paper against the box window, which I was able to remove with my trusty 6-in-1 folding plier tool, something every self respecting artist and DIY-er should never be without.

Isn’t it great?  I am a sucker for bold colours.  At first I thought it said ‘ruler’ but know I’m really not sure. I am terrible at reading graffiti lettering.  Can anyone help me out here?

A Now Magazine paper box in Toronto

On another day, camera in hand I spotted this sticker, which I left so everyone could enjoy it, only to see that it had been removed by the next day.  As a fellow artist I would be sad to have something beautiful I put out into the world removed and discarded so quickly.  So maybe the right thing to do is remove the plastic sheet to save the sticker.  Maybe people could start collecting them like giant sports cards, trying to acquire all the local artists’ work, trading with other collectors and such, just like the pantyhose package collections I was advocating for! (see ‘Random Collections: Pantyhose!’)

This beautiful sticker has been lost to the ages

This one says “Ruin”, right? I think it’s great, the colours, the shape… it’s a shame that the newspapers move so fast to get rid of them.  So I’m going to get started on my ‘plastic news box sheets with stickers’ collection today!

Convenience Store Treasures: Barbie Party!

26 Apr

Here’s a couple of awesome party related items I found at a local variety store, Jusil Convenience.  The first is an old package of Barbie party invitations:

Barbie party invitations

Look at all that hair!  I love the colours, and the white halo around her.  I’m a bit confused as to what the blue thing on the right is in between the strands of her hair; it’s clear she has a blue shirt on, but does it have a giant puff at the front that protrudes all the way up to her chin?  Or is that supposed to be her shoulder?  Either way, it looks a tad akward.  Anyways, I love Barbie stuff from the 80s and early 90s.  Her hair and clothes were the best then, and also the font of the Barbie logo was much nicer than some modern versions I have seen.

Isn’t that preferable?  I love this these invitations, the bold, graphic illustration, free of text cluttering up the image, and the lavender barbie logo on the pink grid background.  I bought a couple of these, and I believe there are still more available, but if you want them, you’ll have to hurry before I go back and snatch them up!  Can you imagine the awesome little girl parties that must have been thrown and been well attended thanks to these enticing invitations?

Next on my imaginary-nostalgic-little-girl-birthday-party supply list  are these great clown loot-bags  Remember loot bags?  You would get like some little trinkets like sparkly pencils and penny candies, little reminders of the fun day.  Why don’t you get stuff like that at adult parties?  That’s what I’d like to know.

The clown loot bags. There’s even a space to write the recipient’s name!

I don’t really collect a lot of clown stuff because most of it is bad but not bad enough to be good, but I really liked this clown.  But as you can see from these pictures, these poor bags are not long for this world, as the plastic is so old it has dried out and is disintegrating into tiny pieces.  Kind of a sweet metaphor for fading recollections of childhood, all the super -girly-sparkle-sleep-over-pink party-penny-candy memories scattering, swirling behind us in the winds of time, like so many bits of plastic loot-bag.

Don’t these flaky bits of plastic make you feel all sad and nostalgic inside?

Both items purchaised at Jusil Convenience, 2305 Yonge St., Toronto

Vintage Books: Health Knowledge and Reader’s Digest

25 Apr

I love to check the vintage book section at Value Village as they often have wonderful old books with beautiful lithographed illustrations.  The colours achieved with this type of printing are far superior to anything you see nowadays in books, even when a limited  colour pallet is used.  These illustrations are a great resource of inspiration for unusual colour combinations, drawing composition, and illustration styles.  Some are suitable for framing just as they are, I think, or maybe they could be turned into decals, stickers or t-shirts.  Perhaps I’ve said too much!  Don’t steal my idea to steal other’s work and turn it into unauthorized merchandise.

The first illustrations come from a 1953 Reader’s Digest condensed book that contains the stories “Black Widow”, “The Silent World”, “East of Eden”, “Karen” and “The Curve and the Tusk”.  I love how the illustrations are rendered with mostly blues and browns, an unusual combination that is never the less very satisfying.

The cover of the Reader's Digest book

An illustration from "Black Widow by Patrick Quintin

another "Black Widow" illustration.

My personal favorite of the "Black Widow" illustrations.

An Illustration from "Karen" by Marie Killilea

I have a few of these condensed RD books and the lovely  illustrations are uncredited for some reason.  They even feel nice, the ink is somewhat thick, and smoother than the paper.  These types of bright lithographs would make excellent solvent transfers.  This technique, in which you apply a light coating of solvent, such as gasoline onto the image before pressing it onto another surface, will unfortunately ruin the book though.

The second book I would like to share with you, dear reader is a beautiful thick medical atlas from around 1919.  Entitled, “Health Knowledge” this book, volume II of an unknown number of volumes was published by Medical Distributors Inc.  It boasts “34 Departments Scientifically Illustrated”.  I was lucky enough to find this beauty for only $6 at Value Village, a bargain for a book with as many lovely full colour plates and black and white illustrations in the text.

The cover of "Health Knowledge"

Diseases of the teeth

The above illustration of the jaw and teeth is my favorite in the book.  The colours are so beautiful.  Wouldn’t you just love some stickers or a t-shirt of this image?

A close-up of the jawline

Diseased teeth

Look at those colours!  These diseased teeth are stunning through the eyes of this medical illustrator.  These old medical illustrations are so different from the type of digitally rendered illustrations and plastic models you see today.  Modern medical textbook illustrations are very sterile, the frailty of life, the reality of death, and the experience of aging are filtered through a scientific perspective to achieve a comforting emotional  distance. The old illustrations speak to a different experience with death and disease, a more visceral, yet more romantic connection to the body and aging.  During the Victorian era and into the beginning of the 20th century the notion of death was seen as more poetic, medicine was more of an art.  My sculpture thesis was inspired by the fusion of death, medicine and science at that time.  Take for instance the wax medical models that were produced during that era:

a wax model of a baby born with syphillis

This is a lithograph of a photo of a wax model of a baby with syphilis.  Notice how it’s mounted on a piece of wood painted black surrounded by white fabric.  Other wax models of this type can be seen mounted on fine stained wood enveloped in silk.  It’s presented like a little jewel, like a little sleeping doll.  Many full body wax models of women were presented in white nightgowns on purple velvet pillows.  It speaks to the body as the original site of entertainment, theatre and show business, which is also evidenced by the development of traveling sideshows that presented preserved body parts and medical oddities, and the dissections done in front of live theatre audiences that were offered to the public at the time.

Check out this colourful illustration of different colours of urine and what ailments they indicate:

a scale of urine colours

Now wouldn’t you just love that image on a shirt?  Perfect for any occasion, am I right?

the joints

And here’s a happy looking fellow:

The black and white illustrations within the text were also nice, my favorites being this skull:

and these two dapper looking fellows in an odd, almost  homo-erotic embrace (not that there’s anything wrong with that)(actually, I think everything is homoerotic, I just love homoeroticism, don’t you, dear reader?):

"Dont look now Edmund, it appears we're being illustrated into a medical book"
"mmm.. yes, quite."

Two books I will treasure forever.

Both books found at Valure Village, 1319 Bloor St. W., Toronto

Compare and Contrast: Tammy and Dolly

19 Apr

Compare and Contrast:

An antique doll that once belonged to my mother

Tammy Pierce, the grotesque, boy obsessed, fashion challenged heroine of Esther Pearl Watson's brilliantly funny graphic novel Unlovable

If you are not familiar with the Unlovable books, and therefore do not get the serendipitous and hilarious good fortune of my owning the above doll, you are missing out, no lie!

Found Photographs: THOR!

19 Apr

When I was around 17 I landed an internship at eye Weekly, an alternative Toronto newspaper, now called The Grid, that centered around arts and local politics.

An eye Weekly cover from 2008 ( a good 5 or 6 years after I left) Isn't it sooo ironic and hipster and ironic? I mean, could you be any more...whatever!?

This internship entailed fact-checking, compiling music and show listings,  (both extremely tedious tasks in a paper like this where every band and artist featured had some special, stupid way they wanted their name spelled) writing small blurbs on upcoming events, and other time consuming work that actually made up the bulk of the paper beyond the 8 pages of articles at the front.

As most of you know, an “internship” is that special kind of  job where you do a lot of work for free, and in exchange they get to treat you like dirt.  Despite this arrangement, the people at eye added an extra twist to the  fair exchange of free work for writing exposure, wherein they take ideas for articles pitched by interns that would be written for free, and “give” them to paid freelance writers, thereby circumventing the cost/benefit balance that is so delicate to maintain, creating a situation in which the possible value accorded to each the intern, (in terms of potential published writing for their portfolio) and the paper, (for what could be a free article) is reduced in direct proportion to the value, in this case actual money, that now has to be paid to the freelance writer.  Clever, no?

And so, like every intern or poorly paid employee who seeks to recoup that lost value, (a feat usually accomplished with stolen office supplies) I set out to recoup what I felt I was owed.  But, this being an arts and culture paper where all sorts of bands, artists and film-makers submit press-packs for review, I was afforded the chance to make up for all that I endured and then some, when I found, and stole this photo:

THOR on Enigma records

Now the photo is aged, and curled, so I know it may be hard to see how awesome it really is, so let’s take a closer look, shall we?

Here, in a rare pic from his gay Mexican wrestling caveman days, we see Jeremy Irons on lead vocals.

And the band: From left, Adrien Grenier in his 'caveman chic' phase, Carrie Fisher, Jeremy Irons in his ninja-goalie Chippendale's outfit, The Wire's Dominick West as "Thunder Thighs" and a young Jon Lovitz. For superior enjoyment, click to enlarge!


With this photo in my possession, I consider the time I worked for eye Weekly as paid for in full.

Comic Books: Classics Illustrated, Animal Stories

10 Apr

I have a small but valuable collection of  Classics Illustrated comics that are a wonderful resource for typographic, illustrative and narrative inspiration.  For those who are not familiar with this publication, as the title implies, Classics Illustrated were a series of comics published in the 1950s which sought to interest children in reading the classic novels by illustrating them, comic book style. These comics provide an easy and fast route to seeming like a well read individual, as they summarize books as long as Anna Karenina into a digestible 48 pages or less.  But, like a school essay cited only with Wikipedia, Classics Illustrated will probably leave some holes in one’s expertise on the subject, and a lack of  any direct text to quote.  While the drawings within can be hit and miss, some of the issues have beautifully drawn and rendered covers, especially the ones that depict animals.  Here are my favorites:

"Bring 'em Back Alive" By Frank Buck

Isn’t this a beautiful illustration?  The colours and the action suggested in this cover make it look so compelling.  I never read it, but I think the good people at Classics Illustrated have given you most of what you need right here, no? Who will come back alive, man or beast?

I love the concepts for these covers, like this one for example.  The wolf  looms large over a scene of a lone rider, galloping across a terrain at sunset, the fiery transition from the sober day to the mysterious night.  The animal’s angry yet thoughtful face suggests a presence  not only as a haunting memory, but perhaps as a psychic state as well.  Is the tile an allusion to a journey of inner discovery? Is to know a wild animal really to know one’s self?  I guess I would have had to have read this thing to see if what I’ve said here has anything to do with the content of the story.

"Wild Animals I Have Known" By Ernest Thompson Seton



Here is another cover with a lovely, colour saturated scene of a majestic animal, in contemplation during the hazy pink and orange lit final act  of another day.

"Fang and Claw" By Frank Buck

Cats, whether wild or domestic, seem to have a kind of dignified and important air about them, like they contain within them the cumulative memory and knowledge of cats who’ve lived and died some tens of millions of years ago.  When I look at this cover, I imagine it’s a modern cat, looking over a prehistoric landscape.  Perhaps the author, Frank Buck had a different story to tell, but I’m not really sure though, quite frankly.

And in another wolf centered story, and the only comic featured here that is based on a story I’ve heard of, White Fang is the the story of sled dog that can’t be tamed.  He is the fearless leader- of- the- pack yet too- wild- for- his- own- good archetype character that so many teen heartthrob movies capitalize on today.  Is there some correlation between White Fang and that wolf character in Twilight, for instance?  Or is was that line of thought just a lame excuse to be able to put Twilight in my tags in a transparent attempt to attract the teen market to this blog?

"White Fang" By Jack London

I hope you have enjoyed these covers as much as I have, dear reader.  And though I never got around to actually reading these super-condensed versions of the classic books, I think that the above ramblings never the less prove that some intellectual activity did result from the efforts of the creators of Classics Illustrated.

All of the above comics were purchased at BMV Books on Bloor St W., Toronto

BMV Books, 471 Bloor St. W., Toronto