Wanderings of an artist in the trenches.

Latest

The Illustration Academy


I was looking through the various posts I’ve made since I upgraded this blog from my old artblog and realized that I haven’t posted about the Illustration Academy on this new version. Crazy! Since it’s getting close to the summer I thought I should rectify that. Scattered throughout this article are shots from last year’s Illustration Academy. I hope they entice you to explore further what the Illustration Academy has to offer by going to their website:

www.theillustrationacademy.com

I was honored to have my image on the Academy poster last year.

The Illustration Academy is where I go to recharge my batteries, both as an artist and as an instructor. All the instructors there are working professionals and include some of the top talents working today. I always feel incredibly privileged to be friends with these wonderful artists. What always impresses itself on me is that each and every one of these individuals is also still a student. They are constantly experimenting and striving to discover new ways of working, of stretching their skills to the next level of their personal artistic development.

Mark English drawing demonstration

John English drawing demonstration.

 The Illustration Academy is a five-week program designed to push you as an artist in your technical skills, but also in how you solve problems and interpret the world visually. It’s also heavy on process, steps that, if relied upon, can make picture making a success. It has been described for years and years as “bootcamp” for artists because it is an intense learning experience. And as intense as it is, everyone also has a great time sharing a lot of laughs and making a pile of artwork.

Jon Foster and John English working with students.

A typical week at the Illustration Academy: We begin at 9AM. An assignment is given and for that week we work with the students to hone their solutions through the process of ideation, composition, tonal plans and color studies. If you’re able to get approval early then you have more time to work on the finish. Generally many don’t get to hit their finish until Friday or Saturday. The finals are due the next Monday morning.

We encourage everyone to make their space their own.

Bud Cook’s final cover design.

On Monday a new instructor arrives, let’s say Gary Kelley, and he along with myself, Mark English and John English, critiques the work. Gary is the new pair of eyes and is able to approach the critique with a fresh sense of perspective.

After the critique Gary delivers his assignment for that week (And he, along with the other instructors work with you that week to help you create the best solution possible). Gary then gives a presentation/lecture about his career and work. During that week Gary will also give demonstrations and how-to’s on various techniques and aspects of, say, book design, etc.

Sketchbooks get filled at an alarming rate!

George Cwirko Godycki was a sketch machine!

The next Monday another instructor or instructors arrive and it begins all over again. Throughout each week there can also be impromptu demonstrations and lectures on various techniques and topics. Students are encouraged to shoot reference for their pieces so they’re working with real information as opposed to making stuff up. It is for “reference” not for copying.

There’s so much information being imparted and so many wonderful pieces of art being creating. Lots of laughs. Just a great crowd of serious, like-minded artists to be with.

Mark English mixed media demonstration.

John English Oil Pastel demonstration.

Your’s truly doing an oil demonstration.


My putty knife and acrylic demonstration.


My mixed media demonstration.


Visiting Mark English’s studio.

Jon Foster demonstration.


Jon Foster digital painting demonstration.


Francis Livingston oil demonstration.


Chris Payne


Chris Payne mixed media demonstration.


Jeff Love and Ted Kinsella by Chris Payne.


Ted Kinsella explaining his process.


Ted Kinsella roughs.


Ted Kinsella roughs.


Jeff Love shares his work.


Jeff Love’s work.


Jeff Love demonstration.


Gary Kelley lecture.


Gary Kelley tissue demonstration.


Gary Kelley tissue drawings.


Bud Cook checks out the originals that Gary Kelley brought with him.


Sterling Hundley lecture.


Sterling Hundley painting demonstration.


Sterling Hundley painting demonstration.

 

Drawing Night at the Academy

We draw from life three times a week at the Academy. All poses are 15 to 20 minutes long. Mark English does the first demonstration highlighting a form of drawing he utilizes to get students to see the whole figure and not concentrate on details by working with two tones on a toned paper. It’s a pretty heady experience to get to draw in the same room with Mark English, John English, Gary Kelley, Chris Payne, Sterling Hundley, Jon Foster, Francis Livingston, Ted Kinsella, and Jeff Love.

Drawing Night at the Illustration Academy.


Mark English and Gary Kelley drawing.


Sterling Hundley drawing.


Mark English drawing from life.


Chris Payne life drawings.


Chris Payne life drawings.


George Pratt life drawings.


George Pratt life drawings.

Mark English life drawings.


John English life drawing.


Sterling Hundley life drawing.


Gary Kelley life drawing.

 

INSTRUCTORS FOR 2016:

The usual gang of idiots: Mark English, John English, Gary Kelley, Sterling Hundley, Francis Livingston, Jon Foster, George Pratt, Ted Kinsella, and Jeff Love.

New instructors include: Bill Sienkiewicz, Bill Koeb, Bill Carmen, Wes Burt, and Victo Ngai.

 

A Short History

The Illustration Academy, was founded by Mark and John English in 1995. It’s first summer session was at William Jewell College and remained there until 2001. It moved to Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in 2002 – 2004. It moved to Ringling College of Art and Design in 2005 – 2009. It then moved to Kansas City in 2010 where it has remained.

The Illustration Academy was an outgrowth of the Illustrators Workshop. Art Center approached Mark English to teach on their campus, however he did not want to go to California. Instead he suggested the school send a group of their best students to Connecticut where he would arrange the introduction to some of the stars in the Illustration field — Bernie Fuchs, Fred Otnes, Bob Peak, Bob Heindel, and Alan Cober.

The first group from Art Center arrived in 1974. The program was a success and the instructors began to organize what became the Illustrators Workshop.

Left back: Bob Peak, Mark English, Bob Heindel. Front left: Bernie Fuchs, Alan Cober, Fred Otnes.

 The first Illustrators Workshop was held at Marymount College in Tarrytown NY, 1976 -1979 (1980 Paris, 1981 Monterey, CA)  

In fact, Chris Payne and Anita Kunz both attended the Illustrators Workshop as students and credit it with getting them prepared for the illustration field. Both Chris and Anita have taught at the Illustration Academy.

Left to right: Bob Heindel, Fred Otnes, Bob Peak, Alan Cober, Bernie Fuchs, Mark English.

 

Hope to see you this summer!

 

Sketchbooks


Sketchbooks

I’ve been spending more time in my sketchbooks and have been enjoying that solitary time. The great photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, who took up drawing later in his career, said that drawing was a meditation and I think he hit it on the head. Sitting and drawing in my sketchbooks (or doing any art, for that matter) is an inner journey at times, a sort of zen place where a lot of personal reflection comes into play. My sketchbooks are mostly filled with observational drawing. It’s not that I don’t work out various compositional problems in them or try to refine some figure or other, but by and large my sketchbooks are just a place to keep my hand in. I’m not one to draw monsters or space marines and so the books are mostly filled with drawings done at cafés, while traveling, or while watching various movies purely for my own pleasure.

I began sketching in sketchbooks religiously in art school, a habit ingrained on me by my teacher Barron Storey. If you’ve not seen his sketchbooks you need to familiarize yourself with them:

http://barronstorey.blogspot.com

Lately I’ve been scanning my sketchbooks with an eye toward self-publishing a nice volume of drawings from the pile of sketchbooks I’ve filled over the years. If you visit my website: http://www.georgepratt.com and navigate to the sketchbook section you can view a somewhat broad selection of these books. But I thought I’d throw out a few of the images I’ve done relatively recently. I’ve shot these with my iphone rather than scan them for the sake of time. I’m usually posting these on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter but thought I’d throw out a blog post as well and try to get a feel for what you might think of a book of material like this.

These days I’ve been really leaning on working with a Soft and Smooth Palomino Blackwing pencil in a Moleskine sketchbook. I love the way the buttery line that the Blackwing’s soft lead has and the beautiful tones I can achieve by smearing the line with my finger. I’ll cut back into the drawing with the white eraser on the Blackwing and also use the Mono Zero 2.3mm eraser by Tombo. On many of these you’ll also see the use of a white gel pen, which is a nice little hit on the sort of off yellowish Moleskine paper and pops just enough.

There’s a few in ink as well. I’ll jump around with different media and even different sketchbook papers, usually opting for the Moleskine, but occasionally a brown paper sketchbook where the white gel pen really shines. In addition to the Blackwing pencil I may use a Pilot Custom 98 fountain pen or a Hi-Tec C gel pen for my linework. Every media is fair game (watercolor, gouache, colored gel pens, acrylics, etc.) and it’s only lately that I’ve focused on pencil and pen.

 

I’d love to hear any thoughts about the possible publication of a sketchbook. Is this something that might be of interest to you? As usual, thank you for scoping out the blog!

 

 

 

Limiting the Lines


 
 
Readers of this blog will recall that I was invited to Germany to work on the Black.Light project with several international artists. You can read the account of that trip here:
 
 
While there I got to meet Danijel Zezelj whose work I have loved for quite awhile, and watch him at work with his rollers and acrylic paint. I was struggling with a way to approach the work I was to do for that project because I didn’t want to just do what I normally do.
 
Upon arriving there I immediately fell into just doing pen and ink drawings. And they were fine, but they weren’t killing me. They didn’t capture the raw and brutal nature of the genocide. I wanted something much more simple and blunt. I had been working with putty knives at home and asked if they would take me to get a set.
 
That was a transformative decision for me. Because I couldn’t noodle with a putty knife the work took on a more direct and edgy feel. They were so much more suggestive than the pen drawings I was doing. I felt very good at that point about where I was headed. I felt that I had found something that almost felt tribal, like cave paintings.

George Pratt – 15 black lines, 8 white

Watching Danijel work with the rollers was mesmerizing and took me back to printmaking days and my work with monotypes. Upon returning home I got my rollers from my print studio and began attacking the final Black.Light pieces with both rollers and putty knives. I was very happy with the results. Danijel is certainly the master of the rollers and I’m so appreciative that he turned me onto them again. They’re the perfect counterpoint to detail.

George Pratt – 15 black lines with roller

I teach an Advanced Representational Drawing class and got the students messing with the rollers and the putty knives. I was very apprehensive the first time out with them on those tools. I really thought it was going to turn into a cluster. But they clicked right into it and were quickly doing some of what I believe are their best drawings. It forces them to simplify.

The problem I ran into the other day was that the students all seemed to be falling into a mode where they were trying to do basically greyscale paintings. As a result the drawings suffered. They weren’t really “seeing” what was in front of them because they were too busy trying to blend everything and take it to some place more like painting. Lots of fixing going on rather than trusting in the marks the were making. Lots of blending and softening and what they would end up with was a tepid, sort of lackadaisical drawing that wasn’t really a drawing and wasn’t really a painting.

George Pratt – 15 black lines with roller

So I made them stop and squeeze out only black acrylic. I told them they could use fifteen lines with only a roller and black. Each mark could be something like five to eight inches long, depending on how long the paint would hold out, which wasn’t long. Lots of groans. Haha! But they dug in.

George Pratt – 15 black lines with roller


George Pratt – 15 black lines and 5 white lines with roller

The pose ended up being something like eight- to ten minutes. One student, as you’ll see, kept count of the strokes on the side of his drawings.

Student Mark O. working in class


George Pratt

 

Student Sam W. working in class.


Student Brooke S. working in class.

 

George Pratt – 15 black lines and 5 white lines with roller

This was a wakeup call for the students. Suddenly each mark had to mean something. They had to be frugal and zero in on the best use of each mark. What they couldn’t do was to cover up their mistakes or, to quote Scott Hampton, polish turds.

George Pratt – 15 black lines and 5 white lines with roller

They were the best drawings they’d done. Everyone was surprised (except me).

Alex Pitthan’s 15 black lines


Mark Orzechowski’s 15 lines.


Mark Orzechowski


Mark Orzechowski


Rachel Ciaramella


Gabriel Gomez


Gabriel Gomez

So we did that for awhile, then I told them they could have fifteen strokes with black and five strokes with white, using only a roller. Now they were excited and dove right in. Again, beautiful drawings resulted. No longer were they meandering around being noncommittal. The lines they were putting down were to the point and essential. 

Mark Orzechowski

Today we did it all again, but they could have eight white lines instead of just five.

It will now be interesting to see where this newfound confidence leads them in other media.

Johnny Winter February 23, 1944 – July 16, 2014


Johnny Winter by George Pratt for d’Addario Guitar Strings

 

This was originally written and posted on Facebook. I’ve added a little here and there and am including some images from my sketchbooks.

Saddened by the death of Johnny Winter.

I’m from the same hometown of Beaumont, Texas and was incredibly fortunate to get to meet Johnny at his home in New York in the 1990’s.

Johnny Winter Rehearsing

I was working on my blues book and a friend of my mother said I should talk to Johnny Winter about the book. I didn’t know if she was serious or not. But she immediately called Johnny’s mother and mentioned to her that Johnny and I should get together. I thought that would be the end of that.

Johnny Winter Rehearsing

 However, when I got back to New York there was a message on my answering machine: “Hi, this is Johnny Winter and my mom says I should call you.” I was flabbergasted.

And in the strange way that synchronicity works I was called the next day by the art director for d’Addario Guitar Strings to do a portrait of Johnny for a calendar and poster they were producing. I sent my sketches to them which they routed past Johnny’s agent who did not like them. I called Johnny and asked him if I could just run the sketches by him personally. He agreed and had me come to his home.

 He and his wife were so warm, friendly and generous! I talked with Johnny about my book and then showed him the sketches for the d’Addario piece. He picked one out that he liked and I said I’d do a painting of that one. “What if I don’t like the finish?” He asked. I told him I’d do another one until he was satisfied.

While I was there I played Johnny a recording I had made of Jack Owens who was living in Bentonia, Mississippi, where Skip James was from. Before listening to the piece Johnny mentioned that some people claim that the dirt in that town contributed to Skip James great voice and playing, but he felt that it was just Skip James. After listening to Jack play the song Johnny exclaimed, “Man, I’ve got to go to Bentonia and roll around in that dirt!” It was fun, because I had played Jack (93 years old at the time) some of Johnny’s music and he loved it. “He’s a note man, like me!”

Jack Owens, Bentonia, Mississippi, 1993

 I went home and painted the piece. In order to get his approval on the finish, Johnny said I should bring the painting to his rehearsal at Sony Records. I was psyched! I dragged the painting, which was a large oil, on the subway to the recording studio and he ended up loving it, as did his agent who was also there.

 Johnny told me to just hang out while they rehearsed. I was walking on air! I got a private 3- to 4-hour concert of Johnny and his band jamming like you wouldn’t believe. In-between songs he would tell stories about all the old bluesmen and their songs. Just incredible. While I listened I filled a sketchbook with drawings. They’re simple sketches, more about the energy rather than me trying to really capture a likeness. But I thought I’d throw some of them out here for you to see.

 When Steve Budlong, James McGillion and I finished our blues documentary we entered it into the New York International Independent Film Festival and invited Johnny to the screening. Our minds were blown when he actually came, stepping out of a limo and sitting down to watch our film. We won Best Feature Documentary at that festival.

Johnny’s playing is amazing and so unique. I love the way he belted out his voice, always reaching, never settling. Always giving it his all.

He’ll definitely be missed!

PS: An aside about the painting for d’Addario. The painting was purchased by d’Addario for their collection, but was in the Society of Illustrators show that year and published in their annual. When I went to pick the piece up I left the Society, which is uptown Manhattan and entered the subway. It was rush hour. I was beat. The painting was large. I had to wait awhile for a train, which was pretty usual back then. My route required lots of train changes in order to get to Brooklyn. Anyway, I was so beat I got on the train and was zooming along when I realized that I had left the painting on the platform!!!! Cripes!!! I was freaking out! I had already been paid for the original and was going to be shipping it when I got home. My heart leapt into my throat! I sat there freaking out waiting for the next stop. I bolted from the car and ran full out over to the platform across the way to get on the next train going back the way I’d come. Wait. Wait. Wait. Finally a train! It couldn’t move fast enough for me! I just knew that painting was going to be gone by the time I got there, and it would serve me right.

However, the train pulled in and I ran out scanning up and down the platform. Ahead I could see a group of old ladies crowded around something on the platform. They had my painting and were trying to see if there was a name or an address on it. Sweet relief! I couldn’t believe the piece was still there.

The painting and I got home safely, and it made it to d’Addario just fine. All’s well that ends well.

GEORGEPRATT.COM Website Total Overhaul


The new face of GeorgePratt.com

It’s been years, really, since I’ve made an effort to post to my www.georgepratt.com website, much less do a complete overhaul of the thing. The main reason was the thought of having to go back into Dreamweaver and mess with all that was just too daunting for me. The other reason has been that I really enjoyed the simplicity of this blog and being able to just fire away and post things pretty much effortlessly. But I knew that I would have to take the plunge sometime. Obviously it’s been later rather than sooner. But better late than never!

I migrated the site to Squarespace and I have to say that it’s so much more enjoyable than messing with Dreamweaver. If I could have kept my site at it’s original host Dreamhost I would have. They’ve been incredible, really. They still will manage my domain name and all. But in order to utilize Squarespace one has to work with their setup. But it’s been flawless.

I hope you’ll take the time to scope everything out. I’ve expanded the site and have hopefully broken it down into manageable chunks according to media and projects.

GeorgePratt.com Navigation

There’s a sizeable sketchbook section where I’m constantly scanning my sketchbooks and posting.

A constantly growing sketchbook section!

And I’ve also updated to include a Shop where you can purchase original art, prints and books. It’s in its infancy, but is growing constantly.

The Shop has Fine Art…


Watercolors in the Shop.


Drawings in the Shop


Monotypes in the Shop

 

Black.Light

Next to that is the Sequential Art Shop where you can see work from my graphic novels and mini-series. I’ve already posted lots of panels from my Wolverine: Netsuke mini-series from Marvel, and a pile of Batman licensing art. I will be posting work from Batman: Harvest Breed as well, though these are mostly fully painted pages, rather than just panels.

The Sequential Art Shop has cover work and content from Graphic Novels and Mini-Series.



Above the Dreamless Dead originals in the Sequential Art Shop


Wolverine: Netsuke


Batman


Magic Card Originals

 

Anyway, I welcome comments and suggestions about the site and I hope you enjoy perusing it all.

BlogPad Pro


Was on the Apple App Store earlier today checking out one of their “Editor’s Choice” type of pitches. This one was titled “Apps for Writers” and I was excited to see what they would be putting in there to entice writers toward. I’m a nut for writing apps and have tried piles of them. But this little post is not about all the different apps I love to play with in regards to writing. Looking through their list I was upset by Apple’s choices for blogging software, most notably the absence of BlogPad Pro!

 

 

I’ve been writing my Blog entirely on my iPad for some time now and BlogPad Pro is my go-to app. And I’m amazed and dismayed that BlogPad Pro is not one of the first apps on this list.

I don’t get it! One of the ones on this list, Posts, has the worst customer support on the planet. Actually, having the worst customer support would be like saying they HAVE customer support. But they never responded one single time to any of the emails I sent requesting assistance! I wanted to like it, and there were things about it that I did like. But I ended up having to massage the text and the images SO much that I couldn’t take it anymore. Chunks of my life were taken away from me. Life is too short. And coupled with absolutely NO response from the creator, I tossed it. It used to cost money. Now it’s free. Free? You get what you pay for.

I have to tell you, I’ve tried all the blogging apps and for my money BlogPad Pro is the easiest to use (and you can also read most fun to use, as well), along with the best technical support bar none. I’m wondering how Apple made their choices. Not that all of them are bad. There’s a couple that are pretty nice and were ones I used before the kind folks at BlogPad Pro released their offering. But once BlogPad Pro was out, it was all over but the crying.

Blogsy was convoluted and difficult for me to wrap my head around. Simple things were not simple. I tried to use it, but eventually gave up on it.

I did like BlogPress but, as I said, BlogPad Pro won me over. But BlogPress was a solid app and fairly enjoyable to use.

The WordPress app was atrocious. Buggy, crashed all the time. I gave up very quickly on it and never looked back.

If you’d like to read my original post on BlogPad Pro here’s the link:

BlogPad Pro: A Shameless Plug

 I realize that this is also a shameless plug, but dammit, when you find something that makes your life easier you want to shout it from the rooftops! The two people I’ve had interaction with from BlogPad Pro are Dino and Mary. They’ve been so damn helpful and kind and considerate and have made this software something wonderful. They’re busting their asses on this thing and struggling to make it all worthwhile and I’m blown away that apps of lesser quality are getting the nod from Apple! It makes no sense to me.

So, I’m yelling from the rooftop here and imploring you to download this app and give it a shot and support some developers that really deserve it. You won’t be sorry.

Features include:

  • Supports WordPress.com and self-hosted WordPress blogs
  • Manage multiple WordPress blogs all in one app, even with different user accounts
  • Offline or airplane mode – save content locally if you don’t have an internet connection to stop you losing work
  • One-click sync to upload all your changes when you go back online
  • WYSIWYG editing: style your posts with a touch of a button. No coding required!
  • AutoSaving of Posts and Pages – never lose your work because of unforeseen issues
  • Conflict Management – never unwillingly overwrite your work (or that of others) when working on a multi-user blog or when changes are made from different devices
  • Write and edit raw html – although with our great WYSIWYG editor you may never want to!
  • Easily find that post or media item you’re looking for with our search and filtering options
  • Check, manage and reply to blog comments on the go
  • Easily add images from your iPad, a url or your WordPress media library

Here’s a link to their site:

BlogPad Pro 

Outdoor Architecture


I hope this post does not offend anyone, but the contents of an old envelope from my grandfather brought a smile to my face and I thought I’d regale you with what was inside. 

I come from a long line of image makers and storytellers, and though there are gaps here and there in the lineage, they’re not massive gaps. My great grandfather, George Pratt (I’m the fourth — and, yes my son is the fifth!), was a professional photographer in Paris, Texas before the great fire there.

George H. Pratt Sr. and George H. Pratt Junior.


 

Pratt Studio, Paris, Texas

He passed that on to his son, my grandfather, who, though he was not a professional photographer, did shoot piles and piles of film from the 1920’s on into the late 1970’s. He was a lineman (I think that’s what he did) for Gulf Oil and would practically live on the road while scouting and purchasing parcels of land for the next wells. We have incredible footage of the old oil boom days, not to mention wild footage of my father, his older sister (Mary) and younger brother (my uncle Joe who studied law, but is a great painter and pastel artist) as children in the panhandle town of Amarillo.

George H. Pratt Jr. working a well (date unknown).

My grandfather was a neat old guy who had a pipe consistently clenched between his teeth and a cloud of aromatic smoke wafting about his head. He loved his Jack Daniels Whiskey and when grandmother cut him down to one drink a day he basically nursed a giant tumbler filled with JD. In fact, that was part of his cure for us when we were little and had a cold or sore throat: One shot of Jack Daniels with honey. Ouch!

One of four JD labels found in the same envelope.

 

Jack Daniels label.

 

JD Label.

 

And another JD label.


He was always agreeable and had a ready smile on his face. When the family was hanging out, sitting around talking, and if the conversation wasn’t interesting to him, he would reach up and turn off his hearing aid and bask in his own personal silence. He would ride us children, one at a time, on his knee, and if we scratched his pure white hair he would feign sleep, only waking up when we stopped scratching. When he drove (he was in his 80’s) he would pull up to a stop light, wait a bit, then announce to us, “I’ve waited long enough!” He’d drive right on through it and carry on about his business. He always said that the streets in my home town were designed by a drunk man chasing a snake.

George H. Pratt Jr. in the field.


When my aunt Mary was having a slumber party (I’m assuming this was the Depression) my grandfather had “prepared” the house for the girls beforehand, replacing all the lights in their room with flash bulbs. When the girls flipped the switch and the flash bulbs popped, grandad bounded into the room carrying his shotgun, throwing open the window looking for the culprit. He used to nail peanuts to tree limbs and watch the squirrels struggle with the nuts.

George H. Pratt Jr. in the field.


 He was quite a character who, for some reason, always reminded me of Humphrey Bogart. Don’t know why, but he did then, and does still in my memory where he still calls me “Bud”. He carried on all kinds of personal correspondence with various personages. One in particular was PT Hanlen, the creator of “Alley Oop!” the comic strip caveman.

What I always loved to hear were my grandfather’s stories of the wildcatter’s out in the fields of the early oil days and the conditions of the camps and hotels. Stories of guys who could find oil with their bare feet, even in the snow or with divining rods. Of rats running and sliding down the wall paper and sagging ceilings of the old hotels. The pranks they would pull on each other and how there was this neat code of honor with the various guys he knew and had to work with.

Digging about my studio recently gathering photographic material for my blues book I came across an envelope that I had forgotten that I had from my grandfather. 

Using his old Underwood typewriter grandad described the  contents perfectly (though, the Jack Daniels labels were also inside).

The Motherlode.


In it was an even older envelope dated 1930 addressed to my grandfather and sent by a buddy of his, F. M. (Doc) Seibert.

 

The motherlode within the motherlode.


I  love the old handwriting from that time period. Just beautiful! Inside this envelope was a two-page handwritten letter in lead pencil (or were they using graphite by then?) on Gulf Pipe Line Company – Telegraph Service stationery.

Houston – Harris Co. Texas, July 21- ’30

Dear Lem: —

She shore is hell Lem to belong to that there “Reconstructed Assholes Corporation.” I’ll tell yer why. First. Tho it is disconcertin to have them grapes, or strawberries, or what ever it is that feller has protrudin like from the old exit; it don’t do yerself a mite-o-good to have that there joint so so of 10 inch er maybe it is only 6 5/8 a stickin there where you knows that if she makes a “head” er two she will raise a lot-o-hell. Even if she don’t ketch fire she will feel like it anyhow.
So I figgers that under the new regime maybe I kin help you out a little bein a specialist like I am. So Lem I am a sendin you some models that may suit your fancy.
 
No. 1 is what I call a interurban or city model. She kinder looms up a little a settin in the middle of a boulevard but I tell you she comes in handy in a pinch.
 

The Interurban City model.

 
No. 2 is a desert model with some features that there city model lacks. She aint shock proof as you can see. Part of the side is exposed or cut out like which gives yer a good perspective on her construction.
 
 
 

The Desert model.

 
 

 
 

Desert model (alternate view)

 
No.3 is a oil field model of what we calls a semi permanent outfit. That is she is guaranteed for the life of the field. She is more suited to a plebian kind of man that she is to a brass collared or upper crust feller but Lem she is practical.
 
 
 
 

 

The Oil Field model

No.4 is a shock proof model fer places where the food is heavy and well seasoned. She is also suited fer figgerin the pay roll or fer general accountin of a temperary nature. In oil field technology she might be known as a yo-yo driller’s accessery.
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Shock Proof model.

No. 5 is a kinder delicate like model known as a geophysical er torsion balance type and as their purpose is kinda alike one might say she gives results when used as a combination fer torsion balance and general results.
 
 
 

The Geophysical or Torsion Balance model.

I can’t just quote money on the barrel head prices Lem but if ye are interested I will go into conference with you on a minutes notice.
 
Doc.
 
P.S. I have many other models to suit all requirements but we kin see about them later.
 
 (Editor’s note: These photographs of other “models” were included in the envelope)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Page 1 of Doc’s letter. 


Page 2 of Doc’s letter.


Page 3 of Doc’s letter.


 Also included in the envelope was another folded piece of thin onion skin paper, this with a poem:
 

 

“THE PASSING OF THE BACK HOUSE”

AN UNPUBLISHED POEM
BY
JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY
 
When memory keeps me company,
     and moves to smiles, to tears,
A weather beaten object looms
     through the mists of years.
Behind the house and barn it stood,
     a half a mile or more.
And hurrying feet a path had made
     straight to its swinging door.
 
Its architecture was a type
     of simple classic art,
But in the tradgedy of life
     it played a leading part,
And oft a passing traveler
     drove slow and heaved a sigh
To see the modest hired girl
     slip out with glances shy.
 
We had a posey garden that
     the women loved so well.
I loved it too, but better still
     I loved the stranger smell
That filled the evening breezes
     so full of homely cheer,
And told the night o’er-taken tramp
     that human life was near.
 
On lazy August afternoons
    it made a little bower,
Delightful, where my grandsire sat
     and whiled away the hour,
For there the summer morning
     its very cares entwined
And berry bushes reddened
     in the teeming soil behind.
 
All day fat spiders spun their webs
to catch the buzzing flies
That flitted to and from the house,
Where Ma was making pies.
And once a swarm of hornets came
and built a palace there
And stung my unsuspecting Aunt–
I cannot tell you where.
 
Then Father with a flaming pole,
     (that was a happy day)
He almost burned the building down,
     but the hornets left to stay.
When summer bloom began to fade
     and winter to carouse,
We banked the little building
    with a heap of hemlock boughs.
 
When Grandpa had to go out back
    and make his morning call
We’d bundle up the dear old man
     with a muffler and a shawl.
I know the hole on which he sat,
     ’twas padded all around,
For once I dared to sit there,
     ’twas all too large I found.
 
My loins were all too small,
     and I jack-knifed there to stay,
They had to come and get me out,
     or I’d have passed away.
Then my Father said, “Ambition
     is a thing to shun”,
That I must use the children’s hole
     ’till childhood days were done.
 
When winter’s crust was on the snow
     and sullen skies were gray,
In sooth the building was no place
     where one would wish to stay.
We did our duties promptly
     there one purpose swayed the mind,
We lingered not nor tarried long
    on what we’d left behind.
 
The torture of that icey seat
     would make a Spartan sob,
But needs must scrape the goose flesh
     with a lacerating cob
That from a frost-encrusted nail
     was suspended by a string,
My Father was a frugal man
     and wasted not a thing.
 
And still, marvel at the craft
    that cut those holes so true,
The baby hole, the slender hole
    that fitted Sister Sue.
That dear old country land-mark–
     I’ve tramped around a bit,
And in the lap of luxury
    my lot has been to sit.
 
But ere I die I’ll eat the fruit
     of trees I’ve robbed of yore,
Then seek the shanty where my name
     is carved upon the door.
I ween the old familiar smell
     will soothe my jaded soul.
I’m now a man, but none the less
    I’ll use the children’s hole.
               ******
 
 
 So, anyhoo, I thought this was a rare glimpse into a little frontier humor. 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 96 other followers