Monday, April 18, 2011

Day 34: Work with wire

The people on the cover are alarmed by a giant wire dog...
It really would have been easier to do something three-dimensional with wire, but for some reason I had the idea of trying sort of flat continuous line drawing with it, and that made me think of the illustrations of James Thurber.
When I was growing up we had a copy of 'My Life and Hard Times' on the bookshelf, and it was one of my favorite non-fiction books. As an adult and living across the country, I came across 'the Thurber Carnival' in my favorite used bookstore, which is a massive collection that includes that entire book and more, like the short story 'the Secret Life of Walter Mitty' (which had an excellent Danny Kaye film loosely based off it).
Thurber's short stories are entertaining and often clever, but what I like more are his little essays and bits of personal history. One of my favorites is titled 'The Dog that Bit People' and is a recollection about a dog his family once owned. He describes an Airedale terrier named Muggs who would randomly bite people and walk away, but the story is really in the way he tells it, and his illustrations anthropomorphisize the dog in a way that makes his personality come through. Here I've tried to mimic one of the classic illustrations of Muggs in wire, all one piece just to make it a challenge.
I will admit that one reason I like the stories Thurber wrote about dogs (he had many, because it's apparent he really liked dogs), is that some of his other stuff suffers from cringe-worthy hints of casual racism. I guess it's just a mark of the culture and times he grew up in, but if you're deeply bothered by that, I'd stick to his animal stories. This book also has some entertaining cartoons, though, and strange modernized parables such as a version of red riding hood of which the moral is 'It is not so easy to fool little girls nowadays as it used to be.' His tales of his teen years at home, with a senile but slightly aggressive grandfather, a mother who comes off as just slightly dotty and fond of throwing things, his brother and assorted cousins, are all told with a dry wit that turns weird situations even more entertaining. These are the stories that stuck in my mind and had me buying his book years after I'd read it last.
Nobody Knew Exactly What Was The Matter With Him.

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