(This photograph of me is from the mid-1970's)
My mother taught me to always “be nice,” but sometimes it ain’t easy. Below is my reply to a written request from a “friend,” someone I had only just met at a party. After a short conversation, I had made the mistake of giving him my business card. Upon finding out that I’m a cartoonist (not covered in our chat), he wrote to ask me to “whip up” a quick caricature of him on a birthday card that he intended to send to a woman he was trying to impress. He also specified that I should hand-letter the card, including the woman’s name, in a “cute cartoon-ish” style, and write something “witty” on it. To top it off, he said that I should not sign the card.
“Thank you for the opportunity. I’m flattered that you’ve selected me for your project, one that you estimate ‘will take no more than a few minutes.’ However, cartooning and writing is what I do for a living, and both skills took years to develop to a professional level. Bottom line, I work only for pay. In fact, my per-minute fee is so high that I’m sure you can’t afford my services.”
When my bother, Vernon Leroy (Lee) Sizemore, retired from the military, he earned his living as a sign painter, a skill he had picked up in vocational high school and sharpened by—among other things—painting pin-up girls and fancy lettering on the noses of airplanes. In the years before his death, he was doing broadsheet window signs for grocery stores and night clubs. Some of his expert brush lettering signs were finished with glued-on glitter, especially those promoting bands and singers. Near the end of his life, he fell off a ladder while hanging an exterior sign and wound up with a severe right-side head injury. He was in a coma for months. Once he woke up, I visited him several times in Denver. He always had something interesting to say, riffs that would start O.K., then wander off into fantasy, not making much sense—but to my ears they were weird poetry. And when he drew Picasso-like portraits of people, me included, he always left the right side of the head blank. When I asked why, he said because that was the way they were.
Lee was a wonderful older brother. Because of all the good things he taught me during trips to museums and theaters, letting me tag along when he shined shoes in South Baltimore bars, and schooling me in basic sign layout theory, I’ve dedicated this post to him.
A collection of photographs like the ones above, on a wide range of subjects, are in the archives of FSA/OWI (Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information). These rich color images, taken within three years of the invention of Kodachrome, serve to inspire as much as to document. To see more of them on this site, type “WPA color” into the small search window in the sidebar on the right of this page. For the complete collection, visit the WPA site by tapping the link in the sidebar box marked “Photography.”
By Catherine Bruce
The “Hip Shots” series of photographs will feature images that were grabbed “on the fly,” with little or no regard for framing and focus. The object of the exercise is to create dynamic pictures, not perfect ones. With this ” shoot-from-the-hip” method, the more frames exposed the better the chances are that you’ll come up with something interesting — a related series that may be arranged as a post. If you’d like additional tips for using the technique, or to submit your own images, drop a question or note in the “Leave a Comment” section, below.
Copyright © 2014 Catherine Bruce.
The FedEx logo is famous among graphic designers. It has won buckets of design awards and has been ranked by some experts as one of the best logo designs in the last 35 years—or as some claim—ever. Nearly every design school professor and graphic designer will praise it as such, and some will then try to draw you into a discussion about its clever use of negative space. Many, though—like me at one time—want to display their design knowledge. But I’ve reformed. Now I only brag about my honesty; about how, until someone pointed it out, I had failed to notice the directional arrow created naturally by the relationship of two of the letters. How about you, do you see it?