Elwood H. Smith
April 2006
Michigan George
George with Buckley and Zevon, David Letterman Show
© 2006 George Gruel

Hi! Green Monkey, here.

I want to talk about this guy I know, lives further up the Hudson River. Like Elwood, he's a Michigan boy. Ah, Michigan My Michigan, land of pine trees and wolverines. Home of the Michigan Militia, the gun-toting paramilitary organization. Google "Michigan Militia & check out Maggie Pickard's favorite song by the group Moxy Früvous. Michael Moore chats it up with the Militia in "Bowling For Columbine". But I'm getting off topic. I don't want to discuss gunslingers, Moxy or Elwood. I want to let you know about another Michigan boy, this one with REAL talent.

Does the name George Gruel ring a bell? Probably not, unless you spotted his name on Elwood's website or followed Warren Zevon's band between 1978 to '84. George was the road manager for Zevon. What does a road manager really do, I asked. George's answer:

"I made sure the whole 'circus' got to the correct city, on time and did the show. Then I'd collect the money load 'em all up and head to the next town. 2 buses and a 45' tractor-trailer rig with full lights and sound support. The drivers of those vehicles were some interesting characters. I was, in equal parts, friend, humorist, shrink, travel agent, booking agent, accountant and lover of rock-n-roll."
I'd work 2 to 3 days ahead, via the phone, checking with promoters and hotels making sure everything was in order. And all of this without cell phones. Looking back on it, it was a lot of work, but it was immensely rewarding and fun. I've experienced so much music right from the stage. Gee, why do my ears still ring?"

If George told me he'd carved Zevon's guitar picks from grizzly bear teeth, I'd believe him. Sadly, Warren Zevon died way too prematurely.

Here's a verse from Zevon's song, "Poor, Poor Pitiful Me" (Stand in the Fire Version)
© Warren Zevon

I met a girl from the Vieux Carre`
Down in Yokahama
She picked me up and she'd throw me down
I said, "Where's George Gruel, my road manger and best friend"
"Come on out here George..."
Get up and dance
Get up and dance or I'll kill you and I got the means

Zevon Biography

But now, back to the George I know; George the photographer. The guy also makes technical drawings and draws wonderfully funny ones. He is a graphic designer and designs websites. He's a computer whiz and one hell of a storyteller. And (finally, we are getting to it) he is maybe one of my favorite photographers. Right up there at the top. He has the gift of capturing exactly the right moment, the perfect light, the conversion of elements to create perfect images. He mucks about with his pictures in Photoshop, but his touch is never gimmicky. George somehow adds or subtracts only that which hones a great shot into an outstanding one.

George recently returned from a Michigan sojourn with a passel of pics. They are, to my monkey mind, breathtaking. Each frame is perfect. Old, toothless barns, aflame with reds and oranges anchored to a field of billiard-green grass. Some, like his "WELCOME to RIGA" storefront, awash with chalky-blue cinderblocks and sea-foam green windows punctuated with a worn, orange door framing an old, yellow 7-up sign. I'm trying to describe these amazing pictures but it's hopeless. You've got to visit his site, OddStick and see 'em for yourself.


I could spend days meditating on that pic with the two horses. If that is not a perfect composition and a perfect story, I'm a monkey's uncle. Want more? Okay, wander over here:


Two tasty websites George has designed:
Marshall Arisman
John Platania

And this site he designed for his wife, Jan, an internationally known lighting designer--with some more of George's fabulous photos:
Janet Lennox Moyer

Hey, time to hit the banana bread. Thanks for listening.

-Green Monkey
Box of Light doesn't seem to be available any longer. Here's another link to see George's great imagery:

George Gruel

Mondo Luigi
Elwood & Brian's Luigi
When I was in the early stages of learning the 2D animation software, "Toon Boom Studio", several users on the Toon Boom User Forum came to my rescue. One of them, Brian Hoard, was particularly helpful and he generously took the time to execute the final edit on my overlong and somewhat stilted first attempt, "Hatman Serenade". Brian, a tech wizard and a talented, generous human being, continued to help me out over the next couple of years when I foundered with other software, like Macromedia Flash. In 2004, I asked Brian if he'd be interested in driving up to Canada to attend the Ottawa International Animation Festival. He rented a fancy car with a GPS Vehicle Navigation System (boy, was that a treat!) and drove up from the Washington area. We headed up to the festival early the next morning. We had a great time. Excited and inspired, we decided on the way back home to work together on a short animated movie. Brian had been using Maya (3D animation software) at work and wanted to apply (and expand) his skills on his own personal project.

I suggested a project I had begun, but put aside to work on my current project, "DRoM". Brian loved "Mondo Luigi" and, sometime later, we began our collaboration. We wanted our 3D animation to look a little different from the more polished Pixar-type films. We also hoped to merge the 3D look with elements of my style and the look of the more flat Clay-on-Glass style used in films like "Rex the Runt".

My idea was to have an old Italian guy remembering his dear cat, Luigi. I wanted live-action film for the narrator and 2D animation to convey his recollections. I engaged an old friend living in Cold Spring, NY, Claudio Marzollo, to read the part of the narrator. His father, Dick Marzollo, a highly respected opera coach, spoke very little English, so Claudio grew up speaking both English and Italian. Claudio exceeded my expectations. I was an amateur filmmaker & Claudio an amateur actor so, with raging ignorance as our ally, we filmed all 11 scenes in a single afternoon using my Sony digital camcorder.

Scene 5 is the only scene Brian and I have in a more or less finished form. Brian shoulders the lion's share of the work, creating all the 3D models from my sketches, rigging them and working out the entire animation. Early on, I wrote Claudio's dialog and created the main characters, but as we progress, I create new characters as needed, work up storyboards and create the music. But it's Brian who's logging the hours on weekends and evenings to bring this cat's tale to life. Bravo, Brian!

Since animation is a long, tedious process, we wanted to share a little of what we've completed so far. This scene may be tweaked once we've completed the others, but it comes pretty close to our vision. As this project progresses, we'll probably offer more glimpses if you're interested. Keep in mind that the QuickTime movie is compressed, so color, detail and sound quality all suffer.

Click Here for Mondo Lugi Scene 5

Some additional thoughts after reading some feedback:

Thanks, fellers, for your comments.

In the 50's I played electric guitar. I stopped playing music for a few years and, upon discovering the joys of Renaissance music, I built a clavichord that I never learned to play and got a lute I did learn to play. I turned to bluegrass music, playing acoustic guitar and mandolin. Along the way, classical music became my music of choice. Then, about a year ago, I became enamoured with the idea of mixing it up--I fell in love with music that overlayed electronic music, nature sounds, sound effects, drones, symphonic music and all kinds of pop music.

I like the digital art of J. Otto Siebold as well as the organic linocuts of Randy Enos. In an earlier post, I let Drawgers know that one of my top animators is Gianluigi Toccafondo, another is Chris Hinton, both organic drawers and painters within the medium. But I love "The Incredibles", a completely 3D digital animation.

For me, it's not the medium, though there are some I don't like, it's what the artist has achieved using his/her tools. I'd hate a world that had only (one of my favorites) Ed Sorel, but took away (another favorite) Digital Bob Staake. Ed uses the same tools I use, but Digital Bob uses digital tools. Doesn't matter one iota to me.

Randy, you seem to indicate a concern that something is lost when my work is morphed from ink and watercolor to 3D digital modeling. I only see it as something changing. I love the grit of ink and pigment on watercolor paper--what else woud account for my using it for some 35 years. But I don't ever want to be a slave to anything. I want to use every tool I can find if that tool will help me grow as an artist, stretch my imagination.

Some friends wonder at my using GarageBand, seeing it as a toy, worrying that I may have abandoned my roots. But I haven't. I like it all. Or, not all, but my range of artistic enjoyment is vast. I wallow on The Stanley Brothers and Gustav Mahler and Les Paul and Shostakovich. My favorite painter is Francis Bacon, but I equally enjoy George Herriman.

As always, I'm long-winded. My apologies. I am delighted with Brian's interpretation of my art and I don't think it hurts my story. It would work either way. I could have done it in a similar style to Little Green Monkey (on my website), but I don't think it would be one whit better than it is. I like the contrast between the live footage of Claudio narrating and the "slick" 2D animation. I shot the movie of Claudio in color, but I knew from the start that I'd change it to sepia. The idea is that I found old footage of this old Italian man who had a story to tell. Once we move from his narration to the visual storytelling, it is no longer then, it is NOW.

Of course, you are only seeing this one clip, Scene 5, so it might make more sense when the movie is completed. But, either way, I am holding firm to my concept because I think I'm right. And I am right because I'm doing it for me. No editors, no art directors, no deadlines, just the pure joy of making something up and seeing it come alive.

However, I do appreciate the honest input and concern. It's fun to get feedback. Even if I am a stubborn son of a bitch.


PS: Randy, I'm playing a vintage 4-string banjo, not a 5-string and it's tuned like an octave mandolin.
He Asked For It!
The Barnes' Country Jazz Label
Rob Saunders asked if Elwood had a guitar hero when he was a beginning guitarist. He sure did. His long, tedious answer:

Aside from Chet Atkins (I never did grasp fingerpicking) and Les Paul (I was in love with Mary Ford), my favorite guitarist when I began playing was George Barnes. I'd found a mono LP in the cheapo bin of the local Woolworth store in Alpena. it was called Country Jazz on the Truetone label, had a dreadful stock photo on the cover, and the vinyl was horrible with massive surface noise, but the music was pure magic. I listened to that disc over and over. His technique was and continues to be way over my head.

Barnes, largely ignored today, was a superb arranger and created some excellent duet recordings with Carl Kress and Bucky Pizzarelli, some first class cuts with a woodwind octet and a series of strange, sometimes mediocre albums with a bevy of top New York session guitarists in an attempt to get a big band sound with a band that included nine guitars, a rhythm guitar, piano, celeste, xylophones, marimbas, bongos and an assortment of timbales, maracas, tambourine and casabas. With titles like "Guitars Galore" and "Guitar Galaxies" the effect was light, fun, inventive and gimmicky. At his best, though, Barnes is one of the most distinctive swing guitar voices.

Dave Gould in the U.K. has a page dedicated to Barnes:

Dave Gould

You'll find some interesting info there. 

You can get Barnes' final recording (recorded live in July of 1977 at the Willows Theater in Concord, California) at David Grisman's site, Dawgnet. The CD is called "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" and is on Grisman's label, Acoustic Disc. 


Also, check out this link:

Artist Direct

and these two CDs are still available on Amazon:

George Barnes - Amazon
You Asked For It!
Michigan Geek


Howdy Drawgerites, Monkey, here. Actually no one asked for anything, but I just broke out of the vet's office where Elwood had me boarded for an "indefinite period of time" and I thought I'd join in on the embarrassing "early picture" rave that's hatched in my absence. Being a modest monkey, I figured I'd pass on posting my delightful baby pics and nail Elwood. He's dozing off at his drawing table and may awaken any minute, so I'll make this short and sweet.

That's Elwood above in 1958 at the Long Lake Supermarket. After the store closed, he and the owner's son, Al Zdan, would plug in and play till late into the night. The guitar he's holding was built by his dad from Carvin hardware and the neck & body constructed from a choice piece of hard rock Michigan maple. His dad's name was Elwood. Name's a hoot, if you ask me. What were they thinking up there in Alpena, Michigan?

Got me to thinking about other Elwoods, like the infamous Elwood Blues of the Blues Brothers and the earlier Elwood P. Dowd played by Jimmy Stewart in the movie Harvey. So I hit the Worldwide Web for a quick check. Here's what I found:

Elwood was Elwood before this Belushi's pal was Elwood:
Elwood Blues (Dan Aykroyd (Born July 1st 1952 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada)

But not before drunken Jimmy played Elwood:
Elwood P. Dowd of the movie "Harvey" with Jimmy Stewart
Click for Harvey

Unlike Elwood H., this guy was a high flyer:
Chuck Yeager's full name is...
Charles Elwood Yeager.

The Elwood Bar & Grill

Need only a drink & some beer nuts?
Elwood's Bar

Check out the Giant Elwood Bike! A model for ladies and gents.
Giant Elwood

How's about an Elwood Enlarger (Elwood could use one of them babies!). I found this on the web somewhere:
"I went to a used photo shop today to look at an Omega D2 they had advertised. Instead I became intrigued with an old 5x7 Elwood. I had never seen one of these beasts before but am interested. The dealer guessed the unit was built in the 50's."

A town:
Elwood, Nebraska

Another town:
Elwood, Indiana
Your chance to meet Mayor W. Merrill and Lela Taylor.

Another town, down under:
Elwood, Victoria, Australia

I could box his ears here:
Elwood Packaging

Oops, he's stirring, gotta go.

-Green Monkey
Master Penman
Vintage Pens

Attention Nibsters!

Cap that Pelikan 120 you just purchased on eBay and click on this link:

You haven't gone there yet? Okay, if you have any interest at all in fountain pens, here's why you should follow my suggestion:

A friend (the very talented cartoonist-turned illustrator), Tim Haggerty was in his Doctor's office recently reading an old issue of Fortune magazine and stumbled upon an article about a guy who lives in New Hampshire who, not only sells and repairs fountain pens, but modifies the nibs. The guy in question is Richard Binder and I'm delighted to share Tim's discovery.

Binder dabbled with fountain pens over the years, but in 1998, he began collecting vintage pens in earnest, which led to his selling and, eventually, repairing them. In Binder's own words:

"I intended to sell vintage pens that I’d purchased and restored, and I do sell a few of these pens; but my business rapidly decided without my help that it was going to be based primarily on high-quality repair and restoration for clients. I then branched out into nib adjustment and customization, and I find this latter skill very rewarding; to hand a nib to a client and get a “wow!” in return is a great kick."

Well, that's a kick I hope to deliver. Binder is an authorized retailer for Bexley, Conway Stewart, Filcao, Pelikan, Signum, and Taccia fountain pens. I've never heard of those brands, since my Pelikan 120 has long served my specialized needs, but I'll bet if Richard sells them, they are high-quality pens. If you purchase a pen from him and order its nib customized, Binder will customize the nib to your specifications. According to his site, nib customization begins at $30.00.

Binder's personal collection focuses primarily, although not exclusively, on vintage American pens. On his site, he has some delicious photo of vintage Waterman's, Esterbrook, Sheaffer's, Eversharp and Parker pens.

Shown in the photo are four of my favorite models from Binder's collection. Two Parker's, a Chilton and a Crocker.

1. Parker Jack-Knife Safety Pen
2. An exquisite Parker Duofold "Big Red"
3. The Chilton "Golden Quill"
4. The Crocker Ink-Tite
Favorite Animation Part 1
La Piccola Russia - Gianluigi Toccafondo
I've been watching animated movies since I was a kid, but I've been fully immersed in it now for only a couple of years. One of my favorite vintage animators is Ub Iwerks, the guy who created the earliest B&W Walt Disney films--you know, those wonderful, rubber-legged people and animals. I may discuss that later on, but for right now, I want to talk about a couple of animators who completely turned my idea of animation on its head.

I love traditional animation and some current 3D animation, but here's an artist who touched the very deepest part of my soul. When I saw Gianluigi Toccafondo's "La Piccola Russia" at the 2004 Ottawa International Film Festival (my first animation festival) I was blown out of the water. I saw many fine films, but La Piccola Russia is otherworldly. I have several short animations on my website, but lately I've been trying to stretch and head outside the normal range of what's usually called animation. Gianluigi opened the door wide for me. I'm a long way from discovering my own voice as an animator, but I'm plugging away. I saw Toccofondo's masterpiece twice at the festival on the big screen, but it is not available right now except at the festivals. I contacted Toccafondo and he graciously sent me a DVD, but for now, the only way to view it is a low res version here:

La Piccola Russia

Also, you can see some of his more commercial work on the Acme Films site:

Acme Films

I find even that stuff remarkably original.

In case you are interested, here's some random information on Toccafondo from web translations (he speaks only Italian) and other sources I've managed to dig up:


In 1989 Gianluigi created his first film, a 2 minute animation, with 1200 small drawings of stills from a Buster Keaton film. He Xeroxed and altered the images, sometimes stretching and distorting them and then painting on the copies before assembling them into a movie. So far I don't know how exactly he extracts his images or what software he uses for editing the final assembly of images.

Gianluigi created two animated shorts, La Pista in 1991 and La Pista dei Maiale in 1992. In 1993, he made a breakthrough with "Le Criminel", a French produced animated short for Sept/Arte. It was shown at the Venice Cinema Festival and was picked up by numerous television networks.

In 1999, he created a 6 minute animation based on Collodi's "Pinocchio", a "surprising outbreak of warm colors and fantastic forms and a truly wonderful Pinocchio".

He created an animated short for the occasion of the 25th anniversary of (the celebrated film director) Pier Paolo Passolini's death.

Other films by Toccafondo include groundbreaking spots for various festivals and movie theaters in Venice and European advertising agencies.

Toccafondo has also created illustrations for Italian publications including Mondadori, Eunadi, Fandango, Linea d'Ombra, Lo straniero and Telema Internazionale.


My other favorite animator right now is Chris Hinton. I discovered his work through my old pal Bill Plympton. Here's Bill's site--he has a wonderul zany style and a wacky sense of humor:


Hinton was a big influence on two of my animations on my site, in particular, The Little Green Monkey. Close, but no cigar.

I had the good fortune to meet and have dinner with Hinton at the Ottawa Festival. He & I had talked on the phone several times & he was very generous, sharing his vast knowledge with me. His animation, "Nibbles" was up for an Oscar two years ago, though he didn't win. If you're interested in seeing his stuff, including a clip from his short film, "Nibbles"  you can go Acme Films:

Acme Films

To find Chris' work, go to "Directors" on the upper left & then click on Chris Hinton. Nibbles is the opening clip.


Also, I need to let you know about another wonderful animator I discovered while combing the Web. Her name is Michaela Pavlátová and I found her on the Wildbrain website (in San Francisco). She works half the year in San Francisco and half in Prague. The Wildbrain site features many top-notch animators, but Michaela especially, caught my eye with her imaginative use of a variety of materials. I dug around the web and found her personal site. Man, is it personal. On the site, she eschews the variety approach to animation, using mainly Flash. Simply, but effectively.

Her personal site done in Flash:


I especially like the variety of animation approaches shown in a QuickTime
movie in her "Montage" on the Wildbrain site:


Her name is listed in the "Directors" list, second from last.


And, finally, below is the link to a strange, wonderfully inventive website--Conclave Obscurum. It is one of my biggest inspirations right now (along with Hinton and Toccafondo) as I'm trying to puzzle out how to approach my new animation. The site seems to be the creation of a Russian artist with a keen interest in web design who knows how to use Flash (and, I'm sure other media tricks) to create those nifty results. His drawings aren't (in my estimation) the very best, but his creative mind and the way he uses his art is first rate. The web world he's created is incredibly mysterious & the way he breaks up his page knocks me out, with those things suddenly appearing and disappearing as strange sound effects & musical loops burble on. It's not your average website & not intuitive, but I really enjoy probing the landscape, unearthing his disquieting imagery. That dreamlike mood is exactly what I'm hoping to achieve with my new project.

Conclave Obscurum

Duck Takes a Trip
Click Here: Duck Takes a Trip

This is a very short animation created with a 2D animation programs called Toon Boom Studio. I was experimenting with animating my vector images over bitmap images--in this case a sidewalk closeup and a moon photo. I created it as a small (silent) clip for my current larger animation project (a whole 7 minutes!), but I liked the little mini-adventure and added a soundtrack and sound effects. I used Apple's GarageBand for the music and scoured up the sound effects in my small collection for the SFX. This is no masterpiece, but I thought Duck might be welcome here on Drawger.

By the way, Zimm made Duck's debut possible. He was kind enough to whip up a enough cyberspace to house this QuickTime.

I owe him.

Life's Treasures
Ted Denyer 1917 - 2006

Dinner With Denyer

Ted lived a full, creative life, filled with joy, enthusiasm, humor and curiosity about, and for, nearly everything. He was a dedicated oil painter, a dyed-in-the-wool artist with a capital A. But the Ted Denyer I remember is not standing at an easel, painting from sunrise to sunset. He's sitting at a table across from me with a bowl of pasta, a salad and a pint of dark ale.

For the final 17 years of his life, Ted and I had dinner together every other Thursday. We hashed over the usual culprits: art and music, literature and poetry, religion and politics, usually wading in way over our heads. Each fortnight, in all kinds of weather, I readily made the journey to Mount Tremper. Like so many others who knew him, I needed a regular infusion of Denyer.

Our dinners were nearly always held at Ted's unique homemade home along the Esopus Creek. He preferred his own quiet space to noisy restaurants. He prepared simple, delicious, wholesome meals, like the legendary Denyer Pasta Sauce on al dente spaghetti. Supper, as Ted preferred calling it, was hoisted up from the kitchen to a small, cozy room on the second floor above his studio employing a marvelous makeshift basket & pulley contraption. We began our meal, sitting across from each other at his swing-out, wobbly table, hoisting a pint to our good fortune. A toast to a dear companion willing to tag along on this short, miraculous, confusing journey called life. Our time together was a blessing and we knew it.

As I devoured my meal and Ted picked at his, we sought out the meaning of things material and ethereal. We were fellow travelers willing to share chestnuts we'd gathered along the way if we thought they might be of use. Our conversations were spontaneous and wide ranging. Depending on our mood, we could be fickle, hopping from topic to topic or dogged, locking in on a single culprit. We admitted to our limitations (always with promises to self-improvement) and, although we sampled humble pie from time to time, we regularly and unabashedly celebrated our extraordinary creative gifts & exemplary moral fiber. We were tireless in hashing things out, over and over. We were true believers and wary skeptics. We shared a love of detail in our narratives--never in a rush to get to the point. We chewed on Ted's favorite topic, "What Is Art?" until it was mauled beyond recognition.
Often, we sat in his studio, listening to music on his old, paint-splattered Radio Shack CD player. Our tastes ranged from J. S. Bach, to Dmitri Shostakovich. For several years, we subscribed to the Hudson Valley Philharmonic concerts at the Ulster Performing Arts Center in Kingston. We could not imagine a life without music.
Ted and I were alike in another important regard; we were born with a common malady: the Curse of the Cantankerous Male. Luckily, our disease was tempered with and usually overwhelmed by a powerful curiosity about the nature of things. Nonetheless, we found ourselves scrabbling from time to time over differing and (big surprise) strongly held beliefs. We'd get all tangled up for a while, finally hacking our way through the thorns, finding the path back home, with a renewed appreciation for the high value of a loving friendship.

I'll miss those nights. Terribly and probably forever. Each visit began the same way. Me, standing at Ted's colorfully painted front door, beer and groceries in one hand, pulling the cord attached to the cowbell with the other, anticipating Ted's shock of cotton candy hair framing his smiling face.

"Mr. Smith!"

We delighted in that formal absurdity.

"Mr. Denyer."

Followed, always, by a heartwarming hug.

On the way to the kitchen, Ted would reprimand me for bringing my small gifts. "Next time, bring only yourself, promise?" "Okay, I promise." Another unique journey, filled with joy, curiosity, confusion, a sense of adventure and much laughter, had begun.

Ted and I regularly held a mirror to our pomposity, willing to peer at the two sometimes wise and often foolish gents grinning there. I'll keep that mirror close to my heart. Ted is gone, but his image remains.
My Trusty Pelikan
Monkey is over at the Hudson Valley Mall. Finally, I can get my two cents in. I want to talk about my favorite tool, my trusty Pelikan 120 Fountain Pen. I've been using a Pelikan 120 since about 1978. I get a good, flexible line with nice variation (thick and thins) using a fountain pen. Sadly, the 120 is no longer in production, but you can get 'em on eBay for around $30, if you keep trying. I am not an eBay user, but my pal, Mike West, who is, tracked down three beauties, none costing more than $100, which is less than a good new Pelikan. I was so relieved to find some. I originally had three 120's and was down to one. Thank you Mike!

I prefer fountain pens, though I did learn to master flexible dip pens like Gillotte. Fountain pens allow you to draw for long stretches without dipping into a bottle and there are no sudden blobs of ink on your nearly finished drawing.

Which brings me to Ink.

I used to use FW waterproof India ink, but the new owners changed the formula from carbon to acrylic. I was in dispair as ran low on my old supply of the good FW, but finally found a great,, very waterproof and flowing India ink. It's made by Dr. Ph. Martin's. I tried several of the Dr. Martin's inks and the most waterproof (if that matters--it does to me, since I color my work in with watercolor) one are these two:

Dr. Ph.Martin's Black Star HICARB
Dr. Ph. Martin's Tech 14W Black

Both are available here:

AOE Art Supply

I've tried every other Waterproof India Ink I could get my paws on and none were truly waterproof. They also had serious flow issues.

My pen may not work for your needs, but I thought I'd let you know.

I think the simian just came up the driveway.

Terri wrote to let me know that my original link to AOE Art Supply has been changed.
Here's the new one:
AOE Art Supply
Monkeys Are Professionals. Always.
Gathering Poop
Green Monkey has been in the business of freelance illustration for a zillion years and you'd think he would be resigned to clients making changes to his work.

Sadly, Monkey is just as prickly and dismayed every time a sketch comes back with changes. Luckily Mugwump, his wife, rep, business manager and creative partner, acts as a buffer. Here's the kind of e-mail she gets in response to an e-mailed sketch:

"Monkey, we LOVE IT!!!! Honest to God, we were rolling around the floor, our sides splitting and our guts spewing all over my new 2.16 GHz Intel Core Duo MacBook Pro. However, we have one or two minor changes. The Editor (that's his real name) wants to lose the pig's hat. The duck would be more convincing if you removed his shoes. I mean, does anyone actually wear wing-tips anymore? And he's too fat. Could you trim him down a bit? The Editor has weight problems. Fat ducks make him nervous. Also, you've put the spider on a motorcycle, which is hilarious, but might send a dangerous message to teens. Better to play it safe and put her in a Honda Civic. Make sure it has side airbags.

"Oh, and one more little tweak--while the elephant is PERFECT, we don't want to get into politics here, so please change it to a snake. We realize it'll completely alter your composition, so you might want to add some other animals to fill up the void. Make them moles or wolverines. Avoid cats--the Editor is allergic to cats. And no dogs. A dog bit me when I was a baby. Dogs creep me out.

"Can we see a revision early this afternoon? Again, Monkey, we LOVE the sketch!"

Monkey begins his usual rant. Mugwump rolls her eyes. Monkey calms down, but is depressed. He swears to the Gods of Commercial Art that he can't take it anymore. He makes a cup of tea laced with rum. Monkey is suddenly ravenous and slobbers together an almond butter sandwich with cranberry sauce. He chases the sandwich with a banana. He belches loudly as he leaves the kitchen. Mugwump rolls her eyes. Monkey returns to the drawing table, whines a little and makes the changes. The client is delighted. They say it's a GO!!!! With only one small change--they really loved that darned elephant. Would it be too much trouble to dump those wolverines & bring back the elephant?

Sometimes Mugwump convinces the client that the changes are arbitrary and severely weaken the art. Sometimes the Editors have the ability to see Monkey's extraordinary brilliance when it is pointed out to them. Sometimes the Word Experts honor the highly honed skills of the Image Experts. And sometimes it snows in July.
Green Monkeys Are NOT Lazy!
Popcorn box design by Maggie Pickard
Green Monkeys are busy. Very busy. The activity is sometimes work and sometimes it's avoiding work. They believe it's a critical aspect to the creative process. And so it is.

Monkeys sit at the drawing table completely flummoxed by the article they are about to illustrate. They are suddenly seized by a need to pee. Real bad. They do so. They step iinto the hallway and peer into the studio. The drawing pad is still blank. Hunger overtakes Monkey and he heads down to the ktchen for salza and chips. Maybe a little slice of cheese. The dog shares some chips and asks to go out for a pee.

Damn, Monkey forgot to feed the squirrels! Dog back inside (she eats the squirrel's peanuts) and back out into the Spring air to "feed the squirrels".

Done. Now the Monkey is making a cup of tea. Does Monkey do situps while the water boils? No, he reads his horoscope in the Penny Saver. And changes the dog's water.

Tea is made and Monkey is sitting before blank paper. The tea is good. The mind is sluggish. Maybe a short nap is in order. Yes, that's it! The New York Times article did say something about the necessity of naps. What was it? Reduced the incidence of heart attacks or something. Old Monkey won't be of any use to the magazine if he dies of a massive coronary.

And so it goes. A Monkey Day is a busy day.

I'll write more of the Monkey's life later. I gotta pee.

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