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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Female Oscar Wilde

I have just gotten some new books from a hundred years ago. They were written by an American writer named Helen Rowland, who appears to have been the female Oscar Wilde. She is quite as cynical, caustic, and quotable as he is and is very unjustly forgotten.
I got interested in her when I read this quote in a book of Quotes by Women:

"When you see what some girls marry, you realize how they must hate to work for a living."

It took me a while to remember who said that, but luckily the quote turned up in a cheap anthology and through the miracle of the Internet I was able to track down a great many of Ms. Rowland's books. I am sure she would delight to be called Ms. although it is apparent from her notes that she was married--and probably divorced--at least once in her life.

Here are some more gems:

"Once a fool, twice married."

"One advantage of a bull-dog over a baby is that you are not haunted by the fear that he will grow up to be just like his father."

"Choosing a husband is like picking out the combination on a lottery ticket; your first guess is apt to be as good as your last."

"Variety is the spice of love."

"Home is any four walls that enclose the right person."

"The saddest thing about married live is the opportunity it gives two otherwise agreeable people for telling one another the disagreeable truth."

These epigrams date from 1909.

Rowland died in 1950, but otherwise I have been unable to find out anything about her. She may have written for newspapers in New York but other references state the Middle West.
Ebay is auctioning a glass slide advertising her newspaper column and I hope that I win it. Then I might be able to trace something about this remarkable woman.

Oh Frankie!

The best tour of the building is the evening 'special tour' which features a nice dinner on the Barton house porch and tours of the interior of the Martin compound. No two will be alike since the building is going so quickly; and a special Grand Opening is planned for November. I'd love to be there for it; it will feature period autos and an official dedication. The original Carriage House was designed for three automobiles and two horses.

Watch the (nonexistent) Birdie

This is the birdhouse for Martens at Frank Lloyd Wright's Darwin Martin house.


I made two trips to Buffalo in all with my neighbour. The first trip was an overview of the city, which improved my opinion somewhat from my original take that Buffalo was a city in severe industrial decline. There are plenty of signs of life, all of them associated with the local universities.
My second trip enabled me to take a special nighttime tour of an early Wright masterpiece, the Darwin-Martin compound.

Darwin Martin was an executive at the Larkin Soap corporation, and strange as this may seem to this century's ears, he made a considerable fortune selling soap mail-order. The concept of the coupon, the premium, and the 'sampler' were all invented by Martin's brilliant colleague Elbert Hubbard. When Hubbard quit Larkin to create the Roycroft, his friend Darwin Martin inherited his job and as mentioned before, made a killing in soap.
Wright was recommended to Martin and they tried him out first by having him design the Barton House for Martin's sister and brother in law. Before it was done Wright was building a mansion, a carriage house, a pergola, a gardener's house, and a conservatory for Darwin Martin. The whole compound connected to the Barton House via the pergola but words don't do it justice. The place was a true palace, built for a merchant prince, and it looked it.

Now I've never been a fan of Wright's Guggenheim Museum design. It's impractical, doesn't allow the art to be seen, doesn't allow most of it to be displayed, and is difficult to walk around. But his Prairie Style houses are divine.
Darwin Martin lost his fortune in the Depression and his widow abandoned the place just like that during the Depression. It was purchased by another architecht in the 1950s which probably saved most of it, but many of the buildings came down.
The Martin House is being restored in a unique fashion; since the Pergola and carriage house and other buildings are now being reconstructed from Wright's original plans. And they have gone a long way in a short period of time.
The Carriage House and Pergola are already rebuilt though the interiors are being worked on. After the structures are up, the next stage in the restoration is the interior of the old house. New foundations were put in in 2003.

Wright was asked to give the house 'a basement'. He created a ballroom with an amazing sunburst fireplace that originally had bronze dust in the grout to make the 'sun' flicker as the fire burned. I put my hand on this fireplace (not restored yet.)

The details in the house are also terrific--Wright built special birdhouses for 'marten's as a pun on his client's name. These were moved in the Fifties when the back buildings were demolished and at present they stand in front of the house--but not for long. Soon they will be put back where they belong.

The irony is that no martens or bird of any kind appear to have lived in the houses, which would be too warm for them. But what a design!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

West and Wewaxation at Wast

Book's handed in, illustrations are handed it's time to relax until someone else finds something for me to do. Bugs was always popping up with something else whenever Elmer Fudd said he was going to Wewax, and for once I sympathize with the foolish character.

It got hairy here for a few days in a very literal sense; Gizmo developed mysterious bare patches on her head and feline acne on her chin. A few days later, Gizzy's health records are much improved; she's lost a pound, her fur is like velvet, her heartbeat is normal, and the mysterious patches are responding to topical medication. I wish I could say the same for myself but now that I'm able to keep a more regular schedule I'm cooking more.

And my neighbour has promised to take me to Buffalo on Monday to show me that the city is in fact vibrant and alive, not the sad shell I saw when travelling from the central area to East Aurora where Roycroft is. And I hope to also get to Roycroft before summer ends.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Sad news

The West African Black Rhino is now assumed to be extinct.
The poor creatures were hunted to death for their horns.

This news is as sad to me as the damage that humans manage to do to one another.
Soon we will have a world without tigers, gorillas or polar bears.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Here she is!

well for some reason

I can't seem to publish the pic of Gizmo. But trust me, she loves the present.

coming down the home stretch

I'm delighted to say that the freelance illustration job I picked up just after my book ended is nearly over. Although it has been fun, I need a rest before classes start in September. I'm on schedule to finish up early next week and then it's West and Wewaxation at Wast (ha-ha-ha-ha-ha.)
Gizmo has been her usual sweet self while I worked up to fifteen hours a day at this computer. Focal Press loved the presentation (the other authors at that firm may be upset that I got it in eight weeks early, but them's the breaks.) A DVD insert has been nixed for this edition but I took the precaution of asking three RIT students whose work appears in the book whether I might also use their Leica reels, animatics, and previz with scratch track for a later edition. All three kindly agreed and so I have the paperwork and the film for the eventual update.
It's very hard to write about story reel and editing to scratch track and animatics and previz without showing it, so these chapters are necessarily a bit short. I have instead directed readers to specific DVDS that contain excellent examples, notably SHREK and THE INCREDIBLES.
Anyway, the publisher explained that new editions must legally have 25% new material in them; so the disc would be a good example of 'new' and chapter 19 will be expanded.
I just wish that something had been worked out earlier, but the deal for this book was: no DVD enclosure. They are already confident that there will be a second edition.
Tony White's ANIMATION FROM PENCILS TO PIXELS arrived last week and now I finally have time to read it. It's from the same publisher and I mentioned that it's one of the few books I've seen that had the artwork printed at a workable size. Focal is actually hiring the same design firm and production manager (yes, they have them in publishing too) so they obviously want to give me a first class sendoff.. This is very nice to know.
Of course I can lie awake at night wondering if I covered everything I needed to cover but I'm told that it is normal for authors to fuss and worry, and the book is really 'done' at least til I see some proofs. Sample pages should be forthcoming shortly and we're on track for the January publication date.
Speaking of Tony White, he is setting up a nonprofit called the Animaticus Institute which will help further the art of hand drawn animation. He plans a '2D or Not 2D' film festival that sounds really nice--I'll be announcing it in the blog and will also notify the RIT seniors of last year and those who are still in the college.
The Animaticus Institute is just a placeholder website now but things should be getting interesting now that Tony is at his new job at the Digipen Institute in Seattle.
In an unrelated incident I got Gizmo a nice new kitty palace for her unbirthday. Actually she was probably born around this time in 2001 since it's what is called 'kitten season' now--I had no idea there was such a thing but knowledgeable people say that this is so. Anyway, I got her a new perch since she was not happy that I gave away the second office chair that formely served in this capacity. Think of it as payment for her excellent editorial services on the book project. She had a very important job: keeping my head from exploding and reminding me that it was important to get up and play with mice every two hours. She also gets a thankyou in the book even if that sounds a little twee. I figured, hell, she worked on this nearly as hard as I did AND modeled for the cover.
Here she is enjoying her present.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The sign says it all.

This sign appeared recently on University Avenue in Rochester, not far from my apartment building. Mr. Dogberry was apparently a pseudonym for an early Rochester journalist.
Catchy slogan.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


I always wanted to be a political cartoonist. Unfortunately politics during my lifetime got so foul, I'd be sicker of it than I am already if I had to face it every day.
Of course we ALL have to face the consequences of other people's actions every day, whether elected by us or not.
Ed Murrow was one of my heroes. Still is. He'd have a lot to say on the state of reporting nowadays, much of it unprintable.

We're having a Heat Wave, A Tropical Heat Wave

My mother would go around singing Ethel Water's hit song whenever the temperature hit 85. The current temperatures here don't hit as much as beat you right down; the 'air temperature' in Rochester yesterday was 106 degrees Fahrenheit.
Which was a great excuse to stay indoors and work on some illustrations for the other book I got to work on this summer.
Gizmo is taking the heat rather well, but I made sure to have a second water dish for her in the studio, and encouraged her not to play Mouse Chase so violently in the hallway. She's wearing a fur coat, for goodness' sake.
Dean Yeagle put me wise to a couple of hot books by Miguel Covarrubias on Bud Plant's art book website. Now, Plant's is the sort of site I avoid like the plague...since I can see a week's salary disappearing in one book order. The "Oooh! OOhh!" factor is too great. (that's the sound a collector makes when something amazing shows up. Of course if you are an experienced one you restrict the 'takes' to a raised eyebrow. I managed to do this when finding a Felix the Cat original by Otto Messmer in a New York junk store. An "Ooh! Ooh" there would have doubled the ten dollar price.)

Anyway, if you love good caricature and painting, the two Covarrubias books will set you back a hundred and fifty smackers but they are well worth it to me.

And if you linger longer at Plant's, there's lots more where that came from. Caveat emptor. (If I knew more Latin I'd say 'let your WALLET beware.")

And Dean's on the 'pulldown list' of favorite artists. How neat is that?

There are so many animation books coming out this year it's amazing. Some are written by old friends, so they will be well informed (for a change. There are more BAD animation books than you can shake a stick at.)

Tony White's ANIMATION FROM PENCILS TO PIXELS is currently available at I've just gotten my copy and haven't had a chance to read it yet, but it's a real heavyweight at six hundred pages. A cd of Tony's new picture, ENDANGERED SPECIES, is enclosed. First editions have the work picture; later editions will have the final print. Get that first edition now and see how the film is made! Tony takes you through the production of the film and each chapter discusses another aspect of the actual film, so this is an important book for that reason alone. I'll review it here later.

Tom Sito (currently directing a film in Taiwan) has DRAWING THE LINE, a history of the animation union, coming out from Tennessee University Press in October. This book can also be preordered on
I'm quoted in it on the '82 strike, but this book is most valuable for FINALLY telling the story of the 1941 Disney strike. Some of the pictures Tom got from the families of participants (notably Chuck Jones' daughter Linda) are amazing. The cover is a caricature by our brilliant French caricaturist/designer friend Patric Mate, with an accent that I don't know how to format here...

Maureen Furniss has a book on independent film production IN production. I'm reading a few chapters pre-publication to see how they scan. Mark Mayerson and Brian McEntee did the same for my opus, which arrived at the publishers' yesterday.
Maureen's book is coming out later in 2007.

So here's the chronology:

Tony White's ANIMATION FROM PENCILS TO PIXELS: Currently available

Tom Sito's DRAWING THE LINE October, 2006

Nancy Beiman's PREPARE TO BOARD! January, 2007

Maureen Furniss' new book: Fall 2007.

Looks like a lot of reading ahead.