Tag Archives: photoshop

Epithet for a King

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It’s not every day that we are needed.

 

This is the quote by Samuel Beckett that precedes the novel “Hologram for a King” written by Dave Eggers.  If he had chosen to omit it and let the reader wander unfocused through the story I don’t think the desired effect would have been achieved.  Hologram for a King is about Alan Clay, a man that used to run a bike manufacturing company in the Midwest that closed its doors after outsourcing.  He lives in an empty house and watches old Red Sox DVDs.  His neighbor after discovering transcendentalism walks into a lake and kills himself.   His wife left him and he can’t help his daughter pay for college.  At the beginning of the story Alan is headed to Saudi Arabia to sell King Abdullah a hologram for his King Abdullah Economic City.  In 352 pages Alan waits for this king to show up- giving a second nod to Beckett’s classic, “Waiting for Godot.”  And then it ends very open-ended but in line with the epithet.

 

Eggers litters his writing with echoes of Beckett’s bywords either with parallels to an eroding American economy or straightforward statements such as when Alan is writing his daughter and says “People think you’re able to help them and usually you can’t and so it becomes a process of choosing the one or two people you try hardest not to disappoint.”

 

Despite Dave’s intentions, this fundamental theme is lost by a large amount of readers as portrayed by the Amazon comments.  It’s as if everyone vaulted past the epithet and began tearing through a book with the expectation of a unique character in a unique situation attempting to solve unique problems.  But that’s not what this book is about.

 

Amazon quotes I found:

 

“I found the book depressing and often boring.”

 

“The main character wasn’t very likable to me, and I found myself irritated with his choices.”

 

“The story is rambling and nonsensical, with no real direction or purpose.”

 

This is a book about objects of importance losing their significances.   It’s about becoming a thing of the past.  After I finished reading it, yes, I felt it fell short of his previous works or what a story typically provides a reader, but the more I went back to the epithet the more it made sense.

 

My epithet for Sacco:

 

“If you told me nothing has a meaning you would be right, but something still has a meaning.” –Albert Camus

 

I chose it meticulously and with much thought because I wanted it to reflect the larger themes I was exploring.  It took me six years to find a sufficient ending and a suitably longer time to find the beginning.  But the beginning and ending, as it should be, are the hardest to write- they’re the bookends so to speak.  And unlike Hologram for a King I hope people don’t tear through it and not see the direction and purpose.

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Reference Material

When I was four I was immensely into tracing paper.  So much so my parents would perform this song-and-dance routine treating it as a big-ticket item burning a hole in their pocket.  But I knew it wasn’t costing them an arm and a leg as they purported it to be.  Tracing paper was cheap.  Still is.  But to their point, I’ll admit moderation wasn’t in my vocabulary.  I use to chain-trace images with barely a breath in between.  At my worst I was probably tracing two to three packs a day.  My composure towards tracing paper was that of a rabid dog- fiercely scribbling the black line paths of Casper and Scooby-doo from coloring books left stark white from an absent of crayon wax.

 

Those were my first memories of drawing and undoubtedly one of my first lessons.  That being- know what you draw.   A reliance on reference material is a common practice among illustrators and cartoonists but unfortunately misunderstood by fine artists.  In fact my stint in art school was littered with lamenting fine artists who detested references to the point that it was a religion.  The three issues not to bring up in art school were abortion, the death penalty, and using reference sources.   Personally I felt the drama was unnecessary.  Fine artists evoke inspiration from inside themselves and we, hedonistic miscreants, elicit inspiration from the carnal outside world.  No hard feelings.

 

To boot it was also a process taken lightly by art students, as I experienced first-hand in continuously harrowing critiques where a student, who plain as day spent forty-five minutes right before class haphazardly scribbling a potted sunflower on top of a corvette while a sun blared down on them from the corner of the page, tried to defend that their illustration does in fact correlate with the assignment’s subject matter- the overcrowding of America’s  prison population (to note the sun and flower did have a smile drawn on. Yes both of them).  And those that stayed on topic drew a prison cell consisting of a room with not a window in sight and an inmate holding bars shooting from floor to ceiling with no apparent door built into them.  Both of these individuals drew based on their internal interpretation of a prison cell (or smiling sunflowers- which don’t exist) and not from an actual prison setting.

 

To illustrate this point, below on the left is a horse drawing done by memory.  And next to it is a drawing I did of a horse  with references to aid me.  I know it’s tough to say which horse is better, but if you are the art director at Horse Illustrated and you’re hiring someone to draw you a horse for next month’s issue…..

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