Thursday, September 29, 2016


The best American artist, that is. If he's not the best he's surely one of the best. I'm talking about Charles Burchfield (1893 - 1967), a little-known regional painter of the American North East. Maybe nobody knows about him because he liked to paint depressing subjects on depressing days. But is "depressing" really the right word?

Look close at these  pictures and you see that they're actually pretty uplifting. You can tell that honest, hardworking people live in these places. You can see that nature puts on a show every day, even in places like this.

Wow! Don't you want to put on rubber boots and splash around in that?

Haw! This house reminds me of the one the young Jean Sheppard lived in, in the movie "Christmas Story."

Is that a kitchen? It looks like a warm and cozy place to have a meal.

Burchfield is amazing! He finds a bleak spot like this (above), and shows you the beauty in it. He makes it seem like the most important place in the world. I'll bet the kids who hung out here carried memories of scenes like this wherever they went, for the rest of their lives. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016


I explained the Lead Sled Dog Theory (see the previous post) to a young actor yesterday, and he wasn't impressed. I didn't keep notes but the conversation went something like this:

ACTOR: "I can tell you don't act for a living because that's not really how it works. Each actor in the piece studies the part and if they're all good at what they do it comes together. If they stray, the director straightens them out. That's his job. "

EDDIE: "But surely the dialogue requires word music and that needs a coordinator, at least an informal one."

ACTOR: "Naw. The kind of people who become actors have an ear for that kind of thing. They're all lead sled dogs."

EDDIE: (apologizes for persisting in the argument, then:)  "But actors are after the great moments, aren't they? The scenes that stay in the audience's minds afterward...surely with such a difficult goal in mind you don't want to leave it to chance."

ACTOR: "It's not chance. The writer did the hard work and the actor's job is simply to present it in a way that's convincing and clear."

EDDIE: "I'm just curious...what type of roles are you most comfortable with? Is there anything you have a special knack for?"

ACTOR: "Sure. I'm good at young lawyer-type parts. I'm also good at being the friend of a girl who already has a boyfriend, but is beginning to have doubts about him."

EDDIE: "Woooow!"


That's all I remember. Fascinating! Just fascinating!

Monday, September 26, 2016


In a film or a story The Lead Sled Dog is the character who sets the pace for everybody else. He gives the film a metronome beat. He's like the base player in a jazz combo. Other actors find themselves naturally calibrating their performance to the rhythms of the Lead Sled Dog. They wrap around it. They bounce off it. If your script or your actors don't have a Lead Sled Dog then you have a rudderless ship and you're screwed.

Sometimes the Lead Sled Dog is the star. Sometimes not.

An example of the Lead Sled Dog as star is Jackie Gleason in the old Honeymooners TV series. Look it up on YouTube. Even when Gleason wasn't physically in a scene his presence was felt. Other actors made their characters a counterpoint to what Gleason was, so that when you finally see him his over-the-top character seems even more outrageous.

An example of The lead Sled Dog as supporting actor is Danny Glover in the film, "Lethal Weapon." [Glover is obviously a first-rank star in this film, and is fully the equal of Gibson, but I'll treat him as a supporting actor just to make my point more clearly.]

Granted, Gibson is the box office draw, the protagonist, the handsome, driven guy who makes things happen. But the Lead Sled Dog? Nope.

The lead dog in that film is Danny Glover. He's the reactor who's constantly amazed by Gibson's character, who defines Gibson for the audience. Without Glover the Gibson character is just a suicidal crazy guy. With Glover, Gibson is evolving and heroic, someone who's worth taking the trouble to get to know.

Another example: Laurel and Hardy. Who's the Lead Sled Dog there? It's Hardy. Laurel does stupid things that make Hardy react and Hardy is one of cinema's great reactors.

Who's the Lead Sled Dog in Ren and Stimpy? Answer: Stimpy. Stimpy establishes the beat that underlies the story. [Note: John says the lead sled dog in that series was Mr. Horse.]

Who's the lead dog in the Andy of Mayberry show? Andy Griffith! You watch the show for Don Knotts but Knotts organizes his performance around the pace layed down by Griffith.

Interesting, eh?

Friday, September 23, 2016


It was the same dream I always have.

Once again I found myself filled with dread, on a pier overlooking the sea. 

Once again I knew that help in the form of a ship was on its way, but it was doubtful that the boat would ever make it. 

Whatever it was that was after me was also after the ship.

 Machines patrolled the shore. 

Gliders, too. Nothing could get past that.

There was nothing for it but to turn back to the city. If I could walk through it and find my way to the countryside maybe I'd be safe. 

It took a while before I realized that I was being watched.

People in an airplane were following my progress. They seemed to know who I was. 

It was sport for them. They were probably betting on wether I'd make it or not.

I had to tune them out. I just concentrated on putting one foot in in front of another. 

Just look at the ground. 

Don't catch anyone's eye. 

Don't look at the people who look at you.

Just keep walking.

Finally I got to the outer edge of the city.

At the base of the hill I realized that I'd left the world of adults behind. There was nothing but odd children down here. 

The oddest of all was a little girl wearing oversize shoes.

Somehow I knew that she'd done unspeakable things. I'd have to avoid her if I was going to get though this. 

I saw the bridge leading out of the city. 

I wondered if the people on the airplane could still see me. Probably not. I had a strong sense that the watchers had disappeared. The now empty plane circled pointlessly overhead.

I found shelter in a cave that ran under the bridge.

Even there I felt I was being watched.

But why? Why would they watch me? What did they want?

In the dark I heard something behind me. 

Then, as I always do, I woke up.

Thursday, September 22, 2016


I just unearthed this caricature John did of me, way back in 1994! It'll serve as a great placeholder til I can post again, probably tonight.

Sunday, September 18, 2016


 I was a cartooning teacher for a while and in some classes we would apply whatever the lesson was to model drawing. Before paying individual attention to students I'd quick-sketch the pose myself on a big board just to suggest one way of approaching the problem. No one was required to draw in my style.

If you're curious to see what this kind of session (or rather, an idealized version of such a session) might have looked like then read on. For the purpose of this post I'll try an operatic theme.

Before the comedic poses started the class will have done some quick sketches of the models so they got used to caricaturing them.

Backgrounds were optional but encouraged. I handed out reference to those who wanted it. Yikes, maybe the BGs would have been a little simpler than the one shown above.

The opera had no script and nobody actually sang. I just got the models to take comic singing poses, as Wood did here.

Haw! I like a pose where someone steps on someone else.

The model session was meant to firm up the lessons contained in the lecture that preceded it. In this case the lecture was about composing figures in space. One of my jobs was to position the models so there was a foreground, middle ground and background.

The scenario could involve several people even though there was only two models. The models did double duty.

Hopefully, we got some good, comedic poses in there.

The beginning and end poses suggested a hint of a story even if the middle ones were completely random.

What style was used?

Whatever style the student chose. No, that's not my drawing above. I got it from the net.