Monday, June 13, 2011

The FugiTimes is the masthead to a broadsheet that can still be found lining the closet shelves of older houses. It is a palimpsest of fugitive events. I just began this painting, a work in progress. How it will end up, no one can tell. What I can tell now is what is moving around in my head at the moment.

I'm thinking of the nature of newspapers, how wonderful they are. But they are a double-edged sword; the events depicted in them rest in the collective imagination only a short time. They flee like the transparent, running colors on a wet canvas. Only a very few artifact-lovers pore over past copies, the journalists and illustrators forgotten by most. I have worked as a freelance illustrator for the NY Times, and the Wall St. Journal. Both were black and white only—and the WSJ, can you believe it, was still fighting last good fight of the the century...the nineteenth century, that is. The paper didn't even publish photos. Talk about good times for illustrators!

My thoughts often go to the The Old Gray Lady, The New York Times. She is putting up a good fight, and her web product is very good. I'm hoping the recently erected pay wall will take root effectively, allowing her journalists to survive; we need news to be written by journeymen, who check sources—and receive a check for their labors!

You could say news ink flows through my veins. Perhaps regular ink runs through my veins too. I got a chuckle when I was painting the black letters, trying to emulate masthead fonts: suddenly I was visited by the memory of my calligraphy teacher, a purist paleographer and former Trappist monk, who loved to rue the grotesque “progress” of the 19c. During that time the calligraphic arts were thrown out the window, and graphic designers used T-squares to draw letter forms, mutating the nature of pen strokes done by hand, so he thought.

Being visited by people from my past is a very common thing in the painting studio. Sometimes the room becomes quite full. I am often surprised by extremely fragmentary types, whose names have long run away, but who offer one quote or action that turns up like a small scrap in a bottle, quickly submerged in the roiling waves of memory. I think I will paint some of these on this canvas; it has just begun, and I am showing only the top quadrant.

For further reading on newspapers, the best book I can recommend is Matthew Goodman's The Sun and the Moon. This brings the age of the newpaper(early to mid 19c.) alive in a very entertaining way, including a hoax that may be the most successful and educational caper of all time.

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