Four Talking Boxes 1733


Physical effort. Some things take more physical then I think they will. They fool me every time. Maybe not every time. After all it’s why I put off this particular task. Wrapping paintings in plastic to keep the dust off them. That’s not something a successful artist who sells painting has to worry about but for those of us who are unknown and unsold it’s a problem. Dust build up over the years and gets into the nooks and crannies of the paintings. It can wreck things.

Besides dust wrecking things leaning a painting against another painting can wreck things too. I try not to do that but I have too many paintings in too small a space so I have to. I even built a painting rack to stop that from happening many years go but I filled that up. A thirty by forty inch painting can take up some real room. Wrapping the painting in plastic can help with the paintings not rubbing up against each other but if there is too much leaning weight on the paint it can still be a problem. I try to keep that to a minimum.

For my smaller paintings, the ones around eight by ten inches, I use envelopes and cardboard book mailers. A painting that size can slip into a ten by fourteen inch envelope and keep it clean. There is also not much weight to a small painting like that so there isn’t much of a rubbing issue once they go in the envelope. I keep them on a shelf so they’re not stacked up bearing each other’s weight. As you might imaging the smaller paintings are easier to handle and store.

I didn’t even have a ton of paintings to cover. I haven’t done much large painting in the last few years. I don’t have the room to store them. I had five paintings that were around the thirty by forty inch size plus another twelve paintings that were eighteen by twenty four inches. Less than twenty paintings. That shouldn’t take too much effort. Right?

There really isn’t much to wrapping a painting in plastic. All you need is plastic sheeting and some duct tape. The effort comes with the paintings being so big that I have to wrap them on the floor. It takes a lot more out of me working on the floor than working standing up. I’m not in bad shape. I like to cycle so I exercise regularly but working on the floor means I have to work kneeling and there is a lot of getting up and down going on. I have a rubber mat on the floor that I usually stand and work on so I tried to kneel only on that mat. I say tried because sometimes I forgot and kneeled for a bit on the hard tile floor. It’s amazing how much my knees hurt after doing that for a few minutes. I’m lucky enough to have good knees that never hurt so when they do it’s a shock.

The plastic sheeting comes on a ten foot roll so I pulled out a pencil and paper to figure out the size I would have to cut the plastic to for it to wrap an eighteen by twenty four inch painting. Remember how they tell you to measure twice and cut once? Well that didn’t help me because I added wrong. After I cut out the first three pieces they were too big. I went back and looked at my little diagram and saw I my mistake. I somehow figured I could only get three pieces across the ten foot length when I could actually get four. It kind of blew my mind a little that I messed up the simple math.

After the plastic is cut it’s time to tape them up. I place the painting on top of the canvas and then fold the sides in so they meet in the middle. Let them overlap a couple of inches. Then I run the tape down the seam from top to bottom and cut it off with my tape scissors. I have a separate pair of scissors for cutting tape because the tape glue always gums up the scissors. I take the tape residue off with rubber cement thinner but I don’t need the tape gumming up my everyday scissors. After that I fold the bottom corners over a little and then fold the bottom four inches up and tape that to the back of the plastic where the other seam is already taped. That leaves me with an open top on my “Envelope” where I left about four inches of plastic that can fold over and keep the dust out.

That’s it. That’s all there is to it. Doesn’t sound like much does it? But its the repetition that gets me. Seventeen paintings means I have to get down on the ground and then stand up again maybe sixty times. And it took me from two to three hours to do. Plus I had to dust the paintings first. Especially the big ones. I used my big soft drafting brush that I’ve had for thirty years but I had to carry the paintings outside to dust them off. It’s not as easy as you would think to dust a painting. The dust really sticks on there. Another thing that took more effort than I thought it would. Ain’t life like that?

Overall I’m glad I got this task done. I don’t think I’ve done this in five years. The fact that I haven’t done a ton of large paintings in that time added to my putting it off. Why pull out the plastic and tape for three paintings? Six paintings? Nine paintings? Next thing you know there are seventeen paintings. Things add up. Be careful when they add up to fatigue.

I’m back from the comic shop this week and I got four new comics plus a book.

  • Dark Horse Presents (Volume 3) – 25
  • Manifest Destiny – 22
  • The Wicked + The Divine – 22
  • Rumble – 13
  • Bone: Coda – by Jeff Smith
  • Check them all out here:


    Time, distance, and nostalgia sure can change things. It can certainly change how a photograph is viewed. In general photography, in the documentary sense, freezes its subject in a specific time and place. Especially when the photo is about a place. In the human-made world things change all the time. Buildings go up and get torn down, roads get built, and business come and go. Take a photo of a place and it may look the same the next day but what about ten years later? Or twenty? Or thirty? Change wins out in the end.

    I went to college in the mid to late 1980s at a small school in Westchester NY. It was a state school so it was called SUNY Purchase. I had a fun time there and enjoyed my time as an undergrad. The campus was a bit odd compared to any other place I’ve been. It was designed in the late 1960s and is one of the last great projects of modernist architecture. It’s built with a reddish brown brick and there is a lot of it. Brick to the left of me and brick to the right. The buildings were brick and the walkways and “Mall” were all brick. The trees were even all lined up in straight lines. There were very few reminders of the natural world.

    The Mall was kind of the center of campus. It was a football field sized flat area with an all brick floor that faced all the brick buildings. You crossed the mall to get from one part of campus to the other. In front of the mall was the “Great Lawn” a large rectangular piece of green grass with a big tree in the middle of it. It was at least a few football fields big. Lots of room to play frisbee. In the middle of the Mall was a large bronze Henry Moore sculpture. It was the real centerpiece of the whole campus. It was big enough that you could sit on/inside it and students often did. “Meet me by the Henry Moore” was a sentence that was repeated time after time.

    I describe this all to you because a lot of it is gone now. Being that is’s been thirty years since I first saw SUNY Purchase you can imagine that things have changed. I haven’t been there to see the changes but I’ve heard about them and seen pictures. The first and most egregious thing that they did was to move the Henry Moore. They moved it off the Mall and put it a couple miles away near the entrance of campus. A place where nobody goes except in a car to enter or leave. What was once the center of campus life has disappeared from it. That makes all the students of my generation and the ones before a bit sad.

    The other thing they did is to tear up the Mall almost entirely and put down grass and plants where it was. They also tore up the the brick walkways and replaced them with larger three foot by three foot paving tiles in about four different shades. I’m not saying any of those changes to the campus are bad. I haven’t been there to see them but I have to think they were improvements. We students of the old SUNY Purchase campus usually had a mixed relationship with the space we lived and studied in. The clean lines and well defined architecture were certainly a sight to behold but the brick could get relentless. One brown color everywhere. The dorms were brick. The library was brick. The performing arts center was brick. All the buildings were brick. Two, three, or four stories worth of brick everywhere you looked. The ground we walked on was that same brick. It could get tiresome and we often did get tired of it.

    I bring this all up because of a Facebook group I’m in. It’s a group of former SUNY Purchase students who were all there about the same time as I was. A typical Facebook group. I’ve been in it for a few years but only recently have I posted some old campus photos there. Back in the days before digital photography I used to shoot film like everybody else. I don’t have a ton of photos of the campus because in the days of film it was way more expensive to shoot than it is today. Yet I did go out on a couple of occasions to take pictures of the campus in general.

    A second reason I don’t have more campus photos is that the ones I did take are generally pretty boring. I found it tough to make something interesting out of all that brick and all those straight lines. The pictures were as monotonous as the environment. Another reason they were failures was the format. There were no thirty inch computer screens in those days. I processed my film at a normal commercial lab and got back four by six inch prints just like everyone else. A four by six inch print of giant brick buildings isn’t that impressive. Almost any time anyone looked at my photo albums they skipped right over those campus photos. So did I.

    Recently I dug those old campus photos out again. I scanned them in years ago along with all my other negatives and they’ve sat there in their folder without me thinking about them very much. They look better on a large computer monitor than they ever did as a small print. That inspired me to fix them up a bit in Photoshop (lots of dust and scratches on those old negatives) and post one for my Purchase Facebook group.

    That act transformed those photos. After nearly thirty years the photos were finally interesting. They were of a place that was now mostly gone except in our collective memories. The place was especially gone because most people didn’t take photos in the mid to late 1980s and if they did it was photos of friends and not of the campus in general. Most of my college photos are of people and not places. Plus many more people can relate to the photos of place than can relate to photos of people. After all if you don’t know the person what does it matter if it was taken at SUNY Purchase or the White House? But a picture of SUNY Purchase? Everyone who went there can relate to that.

    Nostalgia. That sure played a part in making these photos more interesting but so did presentation. That’s why I never throw out or delete my photos that I don’t like. Someday I might find a way to make something better out of them.

    I’m back from the comic shop this week and I got one new comic. Plus I got seven graphic novels for my birthday.

  • Birthright – 18
  • Bandette “Presto” – by Tobin and Coover
  • Killing and Dying – by Adrian Tomine
  • Silver – by Stephan Franck
  • How the World Was – by Emmanuel Guibert
  • Patience – by Daniel Clowes
  • Founding Fathers Funnies – Peter Bagge
  • Our Expanding Universe – by Alex Robinson
  • Check them all out here:


    It’s been a long time. That’s my theme for the week. The theme comes up because I dug something out of my digital files this week that I haven’t seen in a long time. Back in about 1998 my friends and I decided to self-publish our own comic. We put out four issues of an anthology comic called “Kansas Thunder” and then I put out a two issue series called “Delia Charm: The Getaway and the Chase” to continue my story. You can be forgiven if you’ve never heard of either of these comics because not many people have. 1998 was a terrible year for comics in general and an especially terrible year for indie comics. Not many comic books were selling and ours sure didn’t. Still I’m proud of it and think it was a pretty good comic.

    I’ve seen (but not read) the physical comic recently since I have a ton of them lying about the place but what was new was that I actually dug out the digital files. I was going to be interviewed on a podcast about my days working in the Marvel Bullpen so I wanted to send the guys interviewing me PDFs of the six comics my friends and I made.

    Nowadays hard drives are so big that I keep almost everything I’ve done on one where it’s handy. I can find things pretty easily. That was not the case in 1998. Though I was fully computerized back then and the whole comic was scanned in and published via desktop publishing I didn’t have room to keep all the files on my hard drive. So I backed them up on CD’s. That’s how we did things in the late 1990s. We didn’t even had DVDs to back things up on yet. Now I had to dig though my dusty old binder of CDs to find them. Good thing I’m organized because those were my only copies.

    One of the first things I noticed about the files was that the came from the days when you didn’t have to put a file type on a document if you were using a Mac. If it was a jpg file you didn’t have to put “.jpg” on the end of the file. The OS would be fine without it. So most of my files had no identifying suffix on them. That looked odd. It was also the days before Adobe Indesign took over and Quark still dominated the publishing field. So the books had been laid out using Quark. Plus there were two books that had no layout file. That was strange. I dropped a Quark file onto the InDesign icon and hoped for the best. I was amazed when it opened up. Everything wasn’t quite where it should be but with some minor tinkering I got it up to snuff.

    It really struck me that it has been since 1998 that these files have seen the light of day. I have so much stuff on my hard drive these days that it’s hard to believe that these files weren’t on there. 1998 wasn’t that long ago but it is still a different era. And I can remember thinking over the years that I should track down those files but I never did. Weird.

    I kept things pretty organized back in 1998 and I was happy with my past self for making things easy for my present self. First off the comics all have multiple stories. That could easily have made a mess of things. Plus I was still hand lettering things but some of the other work was lettered digitally. It would be in trouble if things didn’t all line up properly. It seems like I was worried about this back in 1998 though and I merged the both the finished lettering and art files into a single file for printing. And I labeled that file with the books page number and then the individual story page number. It was pretty foolproof and made things move a lot faster.

    The only slight problem I had was that I wanted all the files in one PDF and they were in three Quark documents to begin with. Back in those days printers insisted on a slightly larger trim size for the covers so covers had to go in a separate document. I also had a third document for the inside covers. That’s just the way things were done. Now I had to put them all in one document. That wasn’t terribly hard but I was fooled for a moment because I didn’t notice the documents were two different sizes. 1998 was a long time ago and it took me a minute to figure things out.

    As I said before I haven’t sat down and read these comics in a long time. In the interview I gave I was trying my best to remember what the ideas were that I had for it, and could remember a bunch of them, but some eluded me. Why were those guys with guns chasing Delia? You’d think I could remember that part but I couldn’t.

    About as much as I want to reread the comics I also want to reread the editorials that I wrote. As I remember them they were a bit like this blog. I was telling breezy stories about what was going on behind the scenes of us making the comic. It was the beginning of the kind of writing I wanted to do that I don’t think I picked up again until I started this blog back in late 2005. I remember a tale about an egg sandwich, one about French fries, and a third about a notebook. I had usually carried a sketchbook with me but those were the first days I started writing in a notebook. I have no memory of the other three editorials.

    1998. A lot of time has passed since then but this week I took a little trip back there. And here is the interview.