Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Aviator

The dictionary defines the word Caricature as: “A picture, description or imitation of a person or thing in which certain characteristics are exaggerated to create a comic or grotesque effect.”   By that definition I guess that this is probably my first true “caricature”.  I have done a lot of “characters” before but they tended to be just characters in comical situations but were free of exaggerated physical proportions.  I think I exaggerated things “a bit” here.

This piece was done in his honor of a friend of mine, who I’ll refer to here as “E”, who just turned 80.  My boss, who actually introduced me to “E” about 10 years ago, asked me a couple of weeks ago if I had given any more thought to what I was going to carve for “E’s” birthday gift. 

If I could get paid for vacant stares, I would be really rolling in the cash right now.  I drew a complete blank at that statement.  I didn’t even remember discussing it.  In fact, I’m not even sure that I knew his birthday was coming up.

Note to self:  I really have start writing this stuff down!

To appreciate the piece, you need to understand a little bit about “E”:  When people refer to a “Renaissance Man” they may not realize it but they are talking about “E”.  An old-school Physicist who didn’t mind getting his hands dirty, there is very little that “E” can’t do or hasn’t done.  He has a wealth of “war stories”; is a great “idea man” to have around and he is also an exceptionally talented machinist.

My boss and I brainstormed for a few minutes and suddenly something that he said just caused this idea to pop into my head…right down to the paint job.  “E” logged many hours as a pilot.  For a time, 30 or so years ago, he moonlighted as a pilot for “The Flying Tigers” Air Freight Company.  He flew all over the world.  So it was not much of a stretch to decide that the carving should include a plane and that it should definitely be “P40-sique” with the traditional Spinach and Sand paint job and shark’s teeth nose art of the American Volunteer Group that served in China during WWII. 

This caricature also has obvious roots in the “Brown Shoe” days of the Army Air Corps and early USAF.  All shoes were black by the time I was in during the 1970s:-)

The story is told that many years ago “E” and his wife moved into a house that had issues with its existing water well.  Most people, myself included, would just groan, dig deep into their pockets and place a call to the local well driller, but not “E”.  He thought about it a bit, scrounged around, found an old VW engine, built a drilling rig around it and just drilled his own well.  Well, doesn’t everybody do that?

Apparently, “E” did have to do some reading on the subject as shown in the photos.  Heck, those overseas flights are long and you gotta stay awake somehow. 

Old time film buffs know that Alfred Hitchcock always made a cameo appearance in all of his movies.  In keeping with that tradition, if you look closely at the back cover you’ll see that apparently, yours truly wrote the book he’s reading:-)  

 I should add that unlike one particular excellent caricature carver (who shall remain nameless here but I will reveal the name if you ask) who can print an entire page of the encyclopedia on a postage stamp-sized object and make it readable, I have to resort to other means to get print that small.  I have discovered that PowerPoint can help out here.  I drew up the book cover at a reasonable size so (I could see what I was doing), grouped it and shrank it down to the correct size.  You have to play around with the font style, size and color but you can produce a pretty good replica of many tiny printed objects.  (All the signs in “Ollie Bord” were done this way.)  While I was at it I copied it a dozen times across the sheet before printing it out.  That way, I figured, if I didn’t have to get it glued on right the first time -- as it turned, I didn’t -- I could just cut out another cover and glued it on.  Sometimes it does pay to think ahead:--)

As a final comment, I turned the base from a chunk of the Wormy Chestnut that “E” gave me back when I got my lathe a few years back.

Happy 80th Birthday “E”!!!!!

One for the Bench:

Going to school and sitting at a desk doesn't make you an intellect any more than sitting in a garage makes you a car.

‘Til next time…Keep makin’ chips!

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