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My Interview with a Famous Tomato Soup Can September 17, 2008

Posted by whatacharacter in Art, humor, life.
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Interview with a Soup Can
by G.H. Humes © 2008

Warhol’s Campbells Tomato Soup Can

The following is a rare exclusive interview with Andy Warhol’s famous can of Campbell’s Condensed Tomato Soup [TM reg. pat. off.], which was Campbell’s first brand of soup originating in1897, appearing in the upper left corner of Warhol’s renowned “32 Campbell’s Soup Cans” series of 1962.

This insightful talk offers a rare candid glimpse into the trend setting New York art scene of the early 60’s. How excited I was to be able to interview such a star icon of pop culture! The can obliged to meet with me with the provision that no Swiss army knives or oyster crackers could be in the room. [note: all instances of referring to the can as “Tom” have been removed at the agent’s request.]

I: Thank you for you time Tomato Soup can. It’s been over 46 years since being discovered by Andy Warhol, and making it to the top of the silk-screening scene at “The Factory” in New York City. Your popularity today shows no signs of drawing back. How did you feel back then, going from one factory canning process, to another in art at “The Factory”?

Can: “ ”

I:  Yes, it is indeed one of those existential questions without easy or utter-able answers.  I suppose it was by random chance you were preserved from consommé or otherwise consumed existence (self referring laughter ensues). Tell us how are you feeling after all these years?

Can: “Exp. date Nov 1969”

I:  *laughs* Many of us feel past our expiration dates by a certain age, but certainly you don’t look too yellow around the label. Time has been good, and I’m sure you’ve seen much. Care to relate any wild tales from the NY art scene of the 60s?

Can: “ ”

I: Your hesitancy is natural, and if you prefer to keep your memories private we’d understand … but could you offer perhaps just one tidbit of enlightenment to our readers?

Can: “condensed”

I: Indeed! The confluence of diverse inspirational catalysts certainly permeated the very air in those heady times! Besides Mr Warhol himself, who else would you say were some of the top movers and shakers in those days?

Can: “ ”

I: Perhaps you speak of John Cage. It would be hard to say who else, with so many of the avant-garde counter-culture running around The Factory – like musicians Lou Reed, John Cale, Nico … filmakers, photographers, painters, actors … and who can forget Ultra Violet, or Edie Sedgwick?
How do you feel that the highest price paid for any of the Soup Cans was $11.66 million US in 2006, for a torn labeled Pepper Pot can … and not Tomato?

Can: “ ”

I:  As diplomatic an answer as I can imagine. I’ve felt it somewhat gauche that certain puerile interests in human nature find cans in various states of undress more provocative.
It’s interesting to me that few realize that there were 32 different Campbell’s soup can flavors appearing in the original 1962 show, yet you remain the most iconic of the group!
Do you think the Chicken with Stars soup can is still as presumptuous as back then? And what do you say about the modern “Healthy Choice” low sodium can version of you today?

Can: “ ”

I: Tactful answer. Yes, probably best not to say without your lawyers present. However, if I may ask … which do you prefer, mixing with water or milk?!

Can: “ ”

I: *laughs*  Maybe you burned the photos by now. Quite the steamy pot running around the streets of the Village back then, eh wot?
Regarding Warhols choice to pick you as a pop icon: it seems he consumed quantities of similar soup substances before holding you up before the world. It’s been debated whether someone’s suggestion prompted him, nevertheless he was quoted as saying “I wanted to paint nothing. I was looking for something that was the essence of nothing, and that was it.”
How do you feel about that statement?

Can: “ ”

I: Truer words could not be said … the genius that you are! (applauds)
Well Tomato Soup Can, we certainly appreciate your time *not* opening up to us, as you might smell a bit by now …but we certainly hope you continue to enjoy your sweet success maintaining stark reverence to basic patented consumer marketing … or wait, were you supposed to parody that?

Can: “ ”

I: Zen indeed, Tomato Soup Can! Zen indeed! Let the reader judge for hermself.

More exciting new for next month readers! We pop the lid on Duchamp’s toilet seat, and who knows what we’ll find!? Perhaps old sticky dada?


3D latest August 7, 2007

Posted by whatacharacter in 3D, Art, just my blogs.
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Been trying to keep busy re-educating myself in 3D basics, and stretching what I know to get some portfolio items accomplished. One would think I learned stuff like how to make water or terrain in my Certificate course, but sadly no … so here I’ve tried to “yoke the two oxen” together.

bridge_2.jpgbridge_earlytrans.jpgClick to make bigger.

Also working on a tree, with leaf textures, to create an array, as well as a simply low poly model of Lara Croft. She should be fun to rig, so I can get back into animation. How can I have a portfolio without a buxom babe?

Life update June 2, 2007

Posted by whatacharacter in 3D, Art, just my blogs, useful.
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On the career front, I just finished re-re-doing my web portfolio, so if anyone wants to check it out, let me know what you think about www.hobbitdance.com

Hopefully, I’ve taken it a step up. The pieces are in place now to look for work and not feel to foolish recommending my website to employers. As I continue to get some 3D pieces done, I can easily plug them into the site. I added some of the recent Flash animations I’ve been doing for work.

For this site, since I’ve been blogging less about {art} and more about {heart} I think I’ll try adding a second page, and dedicate it just to the spiritual side of expression.

This mystical path seems unescapable to me – to combine art and spirituality, even if the art is more commercial these days. With a couple of decades of experience behind me I feel I’ve produced a fairly large body of work on “human insight.” My eyes and mind dont miss much, and pretty much my whole life has been about experience and learning and looking deep . . . so we’ll see what happens.

Life sure is complicated, but keeping it simple is important. I’ll share what I can – at least just to get it out there – and hopefully I’ve found a good recipe and haven’t missed any of the ingredients.


Here we stand May 20, 2007

Posted by whatacharacter in Art, just my blogs.
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What do I know? Show me …

A Sketchy Group March 11, 2007

Posted by whatacharacter in Art, just my blogs.
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Recent developments, and one hopeful sign of progress, includes my taking the initiative to do what I’ve longed for for years: create a group of creative colleagues to get together and mutually inspire one another. Of course, not running in any artistic circles was a major impedance, until I met a few talented new-media artists in the past year, from my 3D program, and at work.

I’ve hopefully managed now to form a core of 5-7 individuals to get together every other week or so, to socialize, drink, and sketch. Last weekend was actually out first meeting, which I hosted at my home. Not a whole lot of art happened, but it was good enough for everyone to meet, nosh, schmooze, and go with the flow… and plan to to it again next weekend at another’s home.

While some might seek a rigid plan and purpose, I just want to keep our gatherings informal for now, and have an excuse to break out my pencils and pads and draw whatever … it’s good to keep the “hand” up and in shape! Digital tablets are as welcome as sketch books, and we plan to venture to hang out where ever space or weather permits.

Will it be possible to keep the group going? I hope so. It promises to become a hot house of creative fires, and in my life at least, helps ease to frustration of artistic pursuits mixed with a complicated lifestyle.

As I lay awake in bed dreaming …. February 6, 2007

Posted by whatacharacter in Art, just my blogs.
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“The Land of Make Believe” by Jaro Hess is one amazing graphic illustration.

It appeared above my bed as a poster on the wall when I was very young. I could stare at it’s details, and ponder its promises of many tales and adventures for days and hours. Some of the locations and characters are familiar to all who know Fairy tales, but there were some entirely mysterious, dark and dangerous.

60 scenes from fantasy are illustrated. It’s a feast for the eyes and imagination – no one will ever be able to solve the mystery of what is The Wonderful Moo-Moo Bird, besides a flight of fancy in the artist’s own mind.

Hess, a Czech immigrant, entered his painting, “The Land of Make Believe,” into a competition at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, where it won an award in the Children’s Literature Division. I enjoyed it on my wall in the 60’s, but it dissappeared from memory until a few years ago. After a series of failed attempts to locate what it was, a web search finally proved fruitful and I located it here.

Too late for my grumpy teens to grace their walls, but maybe my grandkids some day… ?

Creative wanting November 5, 2006

Posted by whatacharacter in 3D, Art, just my blogs, useful.
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lacoonsm21.jpg – my last painting.

“Artistic Lacoon” 2005.

While my dear daughter’s AP Psychology book happened to be left on the table the other day, I availed myself to peruse it’s pages to see what was to be taught of the creative side of life. Some interesting considerations were brought to light, regarding what certain researchers identify as six components of creativity – not just artistic, but encompassing the multiple intelligences of the human potential. (Sternberg 1988, Sternberg & Lubart 1991,2)

1) – Intelligence – For a visual artist, I suppose this also means talent, to a certain degree, but widely applied to mean mental aptitude, critical thinking, and problem solving/solution finding.

2) – Expertise – “a well-developed base of knowledge.” This is primarily what I’ve always considered to be my inner library of experiences and images – something critical for an artist to have. At some point these elements seek life beyond my imagination and through dreams and inspirations allow me to see how they might appear to others.

To be a truly valuable asset for an artist I think this also applies to the skills one acquires, based on the fruitful application of one’s innate “talent.” This value never runs out: it grows over a lifetime, and develops the “voice” one earns to articulate his/her vision.

3) – Imaginative thinking skills – ability to produce fresh insight, and ideas both novel and valuable. Finding a way through the maze of patterns and connections by which one can form new patterns, or integrate to better define/make clearer existing ones.

4) – Venturesome personality – “tolerates ambiguity and risk, perseveres in overcoming obstacles … ” stays focused and resists running with the pack. Sounds like heroic qualities to me.

5) – Intrinsic motivation – The pleasure and challenge of the work itself, not influenced by external pressures.

I call this a healthy “artistic obsession,” and my primary shortfall. At times I wonder how I can consider myself to be an artist when this part doesn’t click and I ignore, deny, and supplant creative enterprises with other stoopid, or mundane time-stealing projects. Consider whether an artist is made from the value of one’s ideas, or the work one accomplishes.

This component matches other recent studies which show monetary or social gain is NOT a motivator in creative pursuits. Money, fame or any external derivative factor, beyond simply seeing one’s own dreams come to life, even thwarts the process – hence the “starving artist” notion, where pursuit of one’s passion sacrifices vital health.

I once thought of myself as free from such trivial affectations, but when trying to build a career of of it, it’s sorta’ inescapable. While I willfully push away such ideas, they’re always in the back of my mind, conflicted by that need for an audience I wrote of in last post. It’s an evaluation of survival, but ironically also thwarts my own artistic progress.

6) – A creative environment “sparks, supports, and refines creative ideas.” Another weak area for me, despite efforts occasionally related on these pages. It makes me wonder why social connections among artists of differing flavors is so hard to come by. Internet connections sometimes seem to help, but it’s a huge investment to seek out colleagues, I’m finding. Still hopeful to take part in the next pre-Raphaelite or Impressionist movement, I’m willing to see what happens tomorrow (part of the venturesome personality!)! Mystical 3D anybody?

Beyond these intrinsic things, an artist also needs the proper tools, space to work, and a decent business-sense, without which one is doomed. Thankfully I’m not yet doomed, just spinning my wheels it seems, looking for the right traction device to shove under my tires.

The Fate of the Artist September 21, 2006

Posted by whatacharacter in 3D, Art, just my blogs.


Just picked up some great books from the library, including a fantastic 2006 “graphic novel” from artist/writer Eddie Campbell, called The Fate of the Artist. He generally loathes the term “graphic novel” but uses it for lack of a better one (and to make a buck … see his “manifesto”).

While a pseudo-fictitious autobiography, it also explores quite handily the frustrations of creative-types to find purpose and inspiration. Campbell illustrates this using a host of different visual mediums, including photos, sketches, old school cartoon strips (all his creation), and historical vignettes. He balances edgy insights with quaint, to create a wonderful non-linear, right-brain collage of thoughts and images.


My favorite, most relatable bit, begins with the struggles of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who writes in 1804 (possibly from his Dejection: An Ode) :

“So completely has a whole year passed with scarcely the fruits of a month.

Oh sorrow and shame! I have done nothing.

I am filled with and indescribable terror.”

Yet his luxurious self-obessession could not compete with earlier writers, who faced torture and execution for expressing their views freely. This is illustrated by a short graphical discourse on how Shakespeare, who rarely ruffled any feathers, ended up at the top of the heap, while other controversial writers of his time today suffer in obscurity; many of their works burned.

Finally, the author uncovers the secret to life, but I won’t give away the ending …
A nice reflection of this is the recent 9/17 Sunday “Opus” strip, by Berkeley Breathed:

“Ah, finding lifes’ ‘meaning.’ Maybe it’s not so much ‘found’ as its is ‘made.’ “

As for me … while looking at getting a super-spiffy Acer tablet laptop for 3D couch production, I’m getting back in shape, exercising, and trying to find focus …

Model, map, animate … apply directly to forehead.

Model, map, animate … apply directly to forehead.

Model, map, animate … apply directly to forehead.

Model, map, animate … apply directly to forehead.

Navigating Life’s Big Dig September 4, 2006

Posted by whatacharacter in Art, humor, just my blogs, life.

Boston was recently the scene of the most suspenseful episode of “Lost” yet. I always wanted to see more of this historic city, since I fly into Logan airport on the way to caretake the family Cape Cod Cottage, but, Lord, I never intended to explore it this way.

Getting out of Boston on arrival – which I never have trouble with – was a headache just to start off. Maybe it was because my whole family was in the car this trip, or perhaps it was the result of Boston’s century long “Big Dig” improvement project, that I was disoriented. Nevertheless, it’s a heart-sinking experience to cruise right past an exit, suddenly recognizing it and thinking, “I should’ve gone THAT way …” then spending the next 25 minutes recovering one’s bearings along the meandering streets of the 376 year old city. But this was only the ironic set-up for the return trip.

I rarely take the rental car “pre-pay” option for a tank of gas, but with a much better price deal, I did. This means that to take full advantage, you return it as empty of fuel as you safely can. We sure did.

Relying on my wonderful wife’s navigation to get us back to the rental car return, outside the Boston airport, she focused on the car company’s printed directions, to “stay in the left lane,” rather than on the route # we were supposed to exit to. Invariably, the Big Dig had rendered the printed directions obsolete, and the exit was now upon the right. Complicating this fact, due to road construction changing every week, the City of Boston seemed to have stopped bothering to put up any new signs on the highway for guidance, so once again we went off into the city with no clue how to find the correct route again … but this time facing a blinking “Low Fuel” idiot light, and a flight soon to catch home to Seattle.

Twisted overpasses, bridges, and off-ramps whiz by in spaghetti-like confusion, as my delirious wife urges me in desperate tone to find a gas station. The kids in the backseat are gently coaxed to “Shut the Hell up –NOW!” and to clutch their bladders. No less than 3 missed turn offs then occur, turning too soon in the expected direction, only to see the correct route sign ahead on a different road.

And then … I set upon “the bridge with no end.” An ancient 4 lane trestle bridge, it took to the air with alarming altitude, and appeared to go on forever. My inner senses told me there was no existing area of Boston with the equivalent topography on the other end to match this bridge, unless it concluded in Canada, 500 miles away. This was it: it gets me to where we need to go, or I run out of gas here, 1 billion feet above nose-bleed level. My wife now curled up in a ball, silently quivering, kids ashen with blank stares, me white knuckling and pleading with the heavens.

The bridge did actually manage to come to an end, and I *knew* we were very close to our destination. Indeed, I find by sheer luck the correct road to take us to the rental car company, brazenly weighing the odds and ignoring any likely side-street leading to a gas station. Finally we pull in, exhausted engine gasping on damp fumes.

Expecting a triumphant celebration, I was scarcely congratulated at all, but in my heart I knew I was a hero – my tenacity and superior sense of direction had won against all odds, even though I knew for some it was too much to handle.

This really long story, made just long, serves also to illustrate the confusion I’m currently experiencing with my career and artistic endevors: I am close to desperate to find the right signs, so I can get off and ultimately reach my heart’s content. Again my overworked wife is getting desperate.

Much like Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,”

Boston is lovely, its’ streets are deep,

But I have promises to keep,

a rental car to return

My fuel is all but burn’d

Have a plane to catch so hurry the *bleepin’ bleep*,

Art to do, a career to seek

And miles to go before I reap

And miles to go before I sleep

etc. et.al.

Alias:Jaggy September 2, 2006

Posted by whatacharacter in Art, humor, just my blogs, life, mind.

A true moment of creative fun occured at work last week. I made a small animated GIF illustrating the natural conditions for Lightning. 187821_clouds3.gif I haven’t made an animated GIF since unleashing animated hobbits upon an unsuspecting world 5 years ago, and am extremely grateful the process has improved. Using Adobe ImageReady for the first time, it enabled me to keep the anti-aliased (smoothed) transparent qualities of Photoshop, which was hard do do way back when. Photoshop used to be the last choice. In the dark ages, a jagged aliased edge was required for a good transparent background, otherwise some color, usually a default black or white, would bleed into the image edge, creating a fringe, known as the dreaded “jaggies” as can be seen around the dancing Hobbit lass. missy.gif Since I was too lazy to pick off each stray pixel, I aliased her against the purplish Hobbitdance background, which is probably why no one ever stole my dancing hobbits to use in Myspace … the jaggy purple fringe looks terrible against any other background.

On a personal skew, the same analogy applies (or is it a metaphor/ alliteration/simile?) : by smoothing out life’s unwanted jagged edges – and there are many – I can better fit into the scene. This means that spiritual, professional and financial laziness, and unhealthy habits, I think, are creating an unattractive, badly-animated, me. Unfortunately no Photosoulshop exists. I must rid the jagged pixels one-by-one. Tedious, but there’s no easy way that I know of … the self-examined life is full of jaggies.