Friday, June 23, 2006

Mardi Gras Bingo / Cartoons vs. Pictograms

Apparently, last week at the annual awards gala of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies in Little Rock, Arkansas, a piece I worked on with the Riverfront Times won a 1st-place editorial award in a category called the 'Format Buster' (I'm not sure what the trophy looks like). The piece, master-minded by the fine dudes at the RFT, was a series of clip-able Bingo cards designed for attendees of the world's third largest Mardi Gras celebration, in the Soulard neighborhood of St. Louis. I did all the illustrations for the cards (downloadable as a .pdf here) and also for the cover:
It was fun making all the funny little drawings (funny because they're TRUE) and also figuring out how to construct convincing beer stains and crummy pink halftones on a trump l'oeil, beaten-up Bingo card. If you were around during Mardi Gras, you probably stepped over actual beer-stained, beaten-up copies; but what you didn't see was the first, alternate version of the Mardi Gras Bingo game:
As shown, my first inclination was to establish a system of pictograms for each Bingo card. The system I had in mind existed somewhere between the famous library of glyphs developed for Montreal's Expo 67 by Paul Arthur (coiner of the term "signage") and Otl Aicher's icons for the '72 Olympic Games in Munich. My thinking was that this kind of scientific visual language would be a funny contrast to the content, and that maybe vector/diagram boobs are classier than brush & ink/cartoon boobs? I'll let you be the judge; here are all the pictograms versus their more cartoony counterparts (click for larger views):
Obviously, we ended up going with the more illustrative approach and never looked back. The pictograms may have provided more streamlined gameplay in terms of congitive speed - your eyeballs and brain aren't wasting time decoding hand-drawn beads of sweat flying off an ornery handcuffed hoosier's wrinkled brow (and furthermore, if and where it appears on your Bingo matrix) - but who cares? Every one at Mardi Gras is totally trashed anyways. An argument could also be made that well executed pictograms are more universally recognizable to people from different cultural, educational, and economic backgrounds. In my experience though, Soulard Mardi Gras is not exactly the Montreal Expo, if you know what I mean. In closing, sorry to Paul Arthur and Otl Aicher, but give me a nicely tapered cartoon boob any day of the week!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Father's Day Screenprint Archive

A few years ago, I came across a treasure trove of my Dad's cartoons that he drew in the seventies and eighties. More recently, I found a stack of yellowed pieces of paper and ripped halves of manila folders containing screenprints he made around the same time. I rarely saw him working on the cartoons, which were drawn while he was at work. The prints though, he'd work on in our basement(the old way: hand-carving lacquer film into stencils with an exacto knife) and I'd stand by watching as long as I could on a school night. Sometimes I'd make it up late enough to see the first print pulled on the custom contraption pictured above. The next morning I'd go downstairs and see every surface - the work bench, counter-tops, ping pong table and floor - covered in drying T-shirts. Here's a bunch of his designs as I found them, not on T-shirts once worn by Church Volleyball Team members or Rolling Stag passengers but proofs printed on the backs of recycled schematics and office memo's, organized into three categories. Also: there's a lot more where these came ffrom. Hopefully my Dad, his buddies, old co-workers, fellow parishioners, schoolkids, and neighborhood business owners enjoy looking at these. At least they don't have to rummage through the bottoms of their T-shirt drawers. Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Mystery Cyclist/Model-Maker of Maplewood

Has anyone else ever seen this dude, cruising up and down Arsenal or Manchester? Or better yet, the elaborate cardboard/wire/toothpick (?) model/sculpture/contraption (?) strapped to the handlebars of his old ten-speed? Because I'm always either on foot or in my car, and he's always on his bike, I've never gotten a good look at him or the model. I see 'em all the time though! The model looks like a complicated overpass or industrial bridge structure, with lots of wire scaffolding, obsessive ornamental detail, and enough bulk to make bicycle balance difficult.
Here is a quick map I made of my most oft-traveled corridors in southwest St. Louis City, and where I usually see the mysterious model transporter. Take note of how closely our beaten paths mirror one another. I've never seen him east of 3-Ring Binder Worldwide on Jamieson or west of the White Castle on Big Bend. Where does he come from?! Where is he going?!
My most recent sighting of the dude was a couple of days ago, and he's modified his rig for summer. The over-sized flat-brimmed ballcap has been replaced with an over-sized bicycle helmet, and he's now got a weird rectangular box strapped to the rear of his bike, sticking out well beyond the back wheel. I could've swore I saw little silver cardboard wheels on the box, making it look like the trailer of an 18-wheeler. Does the model go inside the trailer? Why is he carrying this stuff around in the first place? Do I really want to know the truth?!
Disclaimer: all drawings made from brief field-sightings. Ink and White-Out on construction paper.
UPDATE! This fellow's name is Raynard Nebbitt. He's a pretty well known and well liked figure to neighbors living around and truckers driving beneath the South Rock Hill Bridge, the overpass which he carries a replica of on his bike. Read more about him and the grassroots campaign to re-name the overpass after him here.