Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Jamaican Switch

When these pen drawings came tumbling out of the archives, I thought of this old street lingo. It’s a method of duping a “John,”  a guy who's in search of a prostie. One pimp promises to deliver the goods, then cajoles the hapless fellow out of a deposit. He is then led into a waiting room or bar where his quest for fleshly delight proves futile. It was ’97 when I got a call out of the blue from an author who had written an American history of cruel misdeeds that had been perpetrated by the military, science, industry and government. “We saw your work in the New Yorker and loved it. We absolutely want you to illustrate our book. We just need a couple illustrations to show the publisher.”
  I had yet to grapple with Photoshop, much less Quark. This was my attempt to provide a certain ultra clarity of line that was increasingly becoming the stylistic norm. I did this through a series of tissue overlays and xeroxs’. I worked hard on these to prove that I could still keep up with the latest technology, though in a John Henry sort of way. More importantly, I badly needed a freelance gig that would allow me to work while on the road. But I was blindsided by the rejection. Another artist had been given the same line by the author and we were both unwitting competitors enlisted to submit finished art for free.
  The first illustration shows the intentional radiation poisoning of a test subject in a military hospital during the mid-'40s.
  The second is an actual pygmy who was housed at the Bronx Zoo near the turn of the 20th Century.
  Not shown is me sitting near the phone, an old-fashioned black cradle type, waiting for that cash call that was to be my imagined salvation. But the other guy got the girl.