Monday, December 29, 2008

The GoodGang in “The Purple Cat's Power Play!”

From 1973, the second issue of my pre-teen superhero comic, The GoodGang. For a nine year-old, I had a far better grasp of graphic structure (and clumsy dramatic narrative form) than of the written English language, an all-too-telling sign of the obvious damage a steady diet of comic books will do a young man.

Monday, December 15, 2008

My Mother, the Artist, Part Two

The following is a second gallery of works, in various media, created by my mother, Phyllis Holland, from the late 1940s to the early 1950s.
The first seven were student exercises from her tenure at the Kingston School of Art, in England. They showcase an impressive facility in disciplines as varied as gouache, pen and ink, graphite, even three-dimensional window display (the “supporters” in Gay Supporters refers to the English term for suspenders, not proponents of equal rights for same-sex couples, regardless of how strangely fitting the image might be for either usage). The second-to-last is a portrait of her mother, Winifred, known to me simply as “Nan”.
The final five are samples of secondary school and childhood work, the last two being cartoon tableaux clearly influenced by Walt Disney.
The photographs, that both precede and follow the art, are of my mother and her fellow art school friends, mugging for the camera outside a fabric shop, circa 1950, as well as with others, dressed as pirates, ready for some school festivity.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Some Opinionated Work

The following are samples of my editorial page cartoons and illustrations that appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from 1985 to 1988, first as a freelancer, then during a brief stint as the paper’s staff illustrator. True to my chameleonic nature, the styles shift rapidly and widely, depending on the subject matter. These were some of my very earliest such published pieces in a major daily newspaper. For the full story on this early tenure, see here.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Curse of the Stained-Glass Window!

On the eve of Election Day, I thought I'd drag up this little cautionary parable from the depths of my pre-teen literary career. Written in 1971, when I was a patriotic, civically-minded eight year-old, it's an obvious call to keep firm the separation of church and state. Whatever happened to my social conscience in the intervening years, I'll never know.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

My Mother, the Artist

My mother, fourth from the left, in the white dress, accompanied by a group of her fellow artists, at a camp retreat in the early 50s. Note the Brownie camera held lovingly in her hand.

Born in the south of England, on October 23rd, 1932, my mother, Phyllis Holland, was the only child of vegetable farmer named George Holland, one of four brothers who had each inherited a quarter of their father’s farm. Nicknamed Pudge, her father was a hard-working, kind-spirited man, who met, fell in love, and subsequently married an equally generous sole named Winifred (known as Winnie to her family and friends), a servant from a nearby manor house whose lineage was an open question, one leading to an unfolding of deep family secrets and the clandestine relationship between one of the heirs of the property and a member of the work staff.
Raised in a tiny cottage without running water or electricity, Phyllis soon found an inherent artistic inclination, one not in evidence in either of her parents. Nevertheless, she was encouraged to pursue this interest and was soon excelling at art in school, eventually going on to attended the Kingston School of Art in London, where she again excelled, especially in drawing and painting classes. Upon graduating, she went to work in the design department of a local ceramics pottery and proceeded to build a resume of her illustration work, selling card designs to Gordon Fraser, the top greeting card company in Britain, as well as living the life of a young artist in the early 1950s, experiencing the burgeoning bohemia of that pivotal period of European culture. It was during this time that she met my father, David Eaton, while on a cycling tour. The two were married soon after and, in an efficient manner, produced four children, the third of which was I.
Sadly, Phyllis found being a mother and keeper of the family’s domain left precious little time for her artistic pursuits. Throughout the years, my older sister and I (also blessed with the “art gene”) have attempted to resurrect this latent talent, offering regular enticements in the gift of art supplies, but the resistance is always strong, such a prolonged absence creating little confidence. Of course, every sketch I have managed to eek from my mother’s hand, over the years, has been a treasure worth keeping. I will showcase some of these later period works in a future post, for now I’d like to introduce artist, Phyllis Holland, by way of some of her earliest student sketchbooks, a series of drawings done from life, of her family (and a poor bird), at work and rest, about the old farm house, as well as a couple of illuminating photographs. I hope you enjoy.

My mother, as a baby, with her parents, Winifred and George, 1933.

Finally, here’s my mother, in 1951, as a student at the Kingston School of Art, being costumed for a New Year’s Eve party. This photo was published in the Sunday Graphic newspaper. The amusing caption read: Wouldn’t Father Neptune be proud of this attractive young daughter of the deep? Wouldn’t anyone – even a fishmonger – be happy to make a catch like this? But Phyllis Holland is a mermaid for one night only – New Year’s Eve. In her salty sea-suit she will join other students of Kingston School of Art in their tableau at the Chelsea Arts Ball.