Monday, 20 July 2015

The definition of Shoefiti - glossary of Graffiti

Ever see a shoe tree ?

No it’s not this. 

It’s this :


or this

Some people think Shoefiti, known as shoe Tossing or Lancer de Chausseurs in French, is  a form of gang communication. See this wikipedia article on Shoe tossing. Holy moly, aren’t we paranoid.

Here is an article I love on shoetrees. Roadside America 

Anyone who loves Street Art, like myself, believes it’s all about the fun, and the exposure. Tossing athlete foot spores to the wind is not point, that’s not the exposure I’m talking about.  Street artists want exposure, they force it on you.  In urban environments tagging and Street Art is ubiquitous, so much so, we don’t see it anymore.  It’s nearly as invisible as copy. Like copywriting. 

Though Street Art is about exposure, I think Shoe Tossing is an intimate gest.  You have this pair of shoes you love, which have witnessed great and terrible moments in your life.  You can’t throw them away because they embody your experience like certain songs you play until your family tells you they’ll strangle you.  Those shoes you love so much, that you wore until you felt the tarmac on the ball of your foot.  You have to memorialize them some how.  No one will want them, not with your fungus and that hole the size of a peach stone.  Can’t give them to Goodwill,  can’t toss them in the trash.  It’s like throwing away a slice of your life.  So you honour them and toss them over a wire, on a street near home or work, at night when nobody is watching.  At night because, no those are not your shoes, they just look like a pair you owned.

I threw a pair of shoes off a ferry into the Mediterranean and over the Ponte Vecchio bridge.  No one knew, until now.  I remember one of those pairs.  I remember shopping for them.  One was black roach-killer ankle boots.  Sigh.  The other I can’t remember and now they’re probably in a shark’s belly.

It is believed that Shoe Tossing has folk origins, this article states it has to do with “ancient ceremony or rite in connection with the transfer of property".   

The techniques of Shoefiti often include shoes with laces and a strong arm.  It helps if you aren’t sloshed or can free climb.  Lazy souls can throw them off their balconies. Long laces help.  But shoefiti isn't relegated to lace-ups.  Shoetrees someties have themes.

Pump Shoetree from Roadside America

In Paris, Shoefiti is visible always around rue Mouffetard and in Butte aux Cailles.  There is even a Sponge Bob hanging on a wire on rue Monge, but he doesn' count, he's just a heel

Where have you tossed your shoes?  Send me your photos and I’ll post them here.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Paris Today: Heaven or water

Graffer's motto:
 The world is our canvas

Can you see where it is? 
Graffers go to Heaven, why do they call these places Heaven spots?  
Because they're high up and
sometimes someone falls, goes to Heaven.

 I went to Honfleur.  Lots of art galleries but not many tags.  It's so quaint.  I was looking for graffiti but didn't find anything until I walked around the port, found this fabulous boat.

The world is really this guy's canvas.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Book tone, what is it?

This is my first blog post about writing craft.
What is the tone of a book ?

After years of following agent blogs and then spidering out to writer’s blogs I kept  wondering what is tone.  Being a painter I should have understood.  Tones are light and dark.  They give contrast to your work and without tone a painting is flat. 

I grew up in the time before digital photography.  In my high school there was a dark room in the art department.  We used to go there, lock the door and smoke while we projected black and white negatives on paper then put the paper in a bath of chemicals.  It was magic to see the image appear.  It took skill to know just when to remove the photograph and put it in the bath of fixer.  To think we smoked when we did this!  It was only when they had to replace a ceiling lamp did they catch us, because the ashtray was the drop ceiling.  We put out the butts and shoved them up through one of the removable ceiling tiles.  Like the place didn’t reek. That was also life before safety-hysteria.  But that’s another story.

In photography there is a greyscale.  

A guide for the tones.  Typically twenty tones from black to white, but there are more.  A black and white photograph with no tone is either white or black.  Boring.  A well developed black and white photograph has a wide range of distinct tones.  Distinct is the key.

It didn’t hit me until yesterday what tone is in a book.

I have to experience things to understand them.  Just reading it doesn’t help, listening to others advice, well, *cough* I’m still learning.

Tone, in crafting fiction, was one big elusive word.   I’ve read the definition in many books on crafting fiction , but until yesterday didn’t understand. 

 David Hood  says : "Tone is also about the effect the writing has on the reader.Yeah okay but what does it mean ?

What is tone? 

Currently I’m rewriting my manuscript entitled White Sky of Paris.  The rewrite was going well but there was something missing.  The stakes were flat.  Just a guy who needs to finish paintings. Finishing the paintings is the protagonist’s goal.  So what? Right.  We all have work to do, things to finish. The real story wasn’t making sense.

It hit me that I didn’t understand my villain’s motives, why he wants to destroy my hero.  I sat my butt in my chair, brainstormed my villain, considered giving him more word count.  When I finished blathering on the page, I reread.  A dark feeling enveloped me.  Like the whole manuscript shifted.  The sensation was overwhelming, like a cloak was drawn over me. I was also overwhelmed because I thought I had to write a whole different book.  I put my writing aside and painted all day, reflected and realized I didn’t have to give my villain more voice, subtext would do.  This was a relief.

This shifting sensation happens when I am painting, when one brushstroke, even a tiny one, can change the entire painting.  It’s like the painting flickers.  Visually.  And no, it is not a hallucination.  If you don’t believe me try staring at a Rothko 

or a Mondrian from his De Stijl period.


 If you don’t stare, you won’t understand.  It may take ten minutes of staring.  Focusing on one of these paintings has to be done in person.  Staring at a photograph of one of these artists’ works will not let you see what is there.

The first time one of my artworks flickered, it was when I sculpted portraits.  The eyes would blink.  But it took years of exercise to see the first time a brushstroke changed the entire painting.

Now that I understand what a book's tone is (though I may not have explained it well), it is clear that characters have tonal differences. The villain is blackest, the hero is lightest, but to be well rounded characters they should have nuances of grey.  Then there are minor characters or appearances who should have less variation on the grey scale.

Now my rewrite is flowing.  End of June is my deadline.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Paris today

Paris is full of pollen this Spring.

And rainbows.

The Luxembourg Gardens are always beautiful but this Spring the layers of green are more evident than last year.  Last year Spring exploded in one week.  The pollen didn't have time to build up.  This year, Spring is what we imagine and expect. 

I haven't posted in some time because I'm busy rewriting and planning a new website where I can encorporate my two blogs.  No idea when that will be because in October I have a show and have to produce 80 paintings.  Plus finish this rewrite.

Luxembourg gardens is tourist Paris, though locals hang there too.  I do. It's in my hood.

But there is another Paris, a street artist's city. It's grungy and dark.  Here is a mural, in the 13th arrondissement, near the Biblioteque François Mitterand.  Notice the trees have no leaves.  It was not today.

The other side of Paris, the street art scene, is important in the manuscript I'm rewriting.  For the last year I have immersed myself in street art, graffiti.  It's exciting stuff, like the manholes on boulevard Saint Michel, where taggers desecnd -- backpacks full of goodies.

The working title is White Sky of Paris.  See how white the sky is?  In Paris the sky is often white.

An artist once told me he would mix phtalo green with quinadricone red and add white.  It was the perfect color for the Parisian sky.  I thought, yuck, you can't mix those two. He was right.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Paris Today

This is one of my favorite views of Paris

The sculpture is by Jean Terzieff.  It's entitled La Femme aux Pommes.  Two apples held apart by naked beauty.  The two bad apples represent the opposing forces before WWII.  

The stone building is the Senat but was once the home of Catherine de Medici and was modelled after the Pitti Palace in Florence.  The skyscraper is the Montparnasse tower.

The photo is from last week.

And so is this, the cherry tree blossoms in Parc des Sceaux just south of Paris. 

Under the cherry blossoms everyone was there, like the entire city. It was standing room only.  There were people dressed up like samurai and others in traditional Japanese kimonos playing instruments I've never seen.

This is Paris today.  So much for the May 1st parade.  It's 10°C. 

Saturday, 21 March 2015

History of Graffiti: Kilroy Was Here

Do you remember Kilroy? It is the first graffiti I remember.   Long ago in Morgantown, West Virginia, while walking with my mother, I saw Kilroy for the first time.  

Kilroy is mentioned in the Dictionary of American Slang,  Langensheidt © 1975, as a nonentity that originated with US troops in WW1.  I've not seen Kilroy mentioned in other print dictionaries nor online versions.  Oxford holds no entry, Larousse, none, the Winston Dictionary neither.  It's typical to ignore graffiti but The World is Our Canvas is a graffers moto and Kilroy Was Here proves it.  Kilroy is history.

There are several websites dedicated to the urban legend, Kilroy was here-- how it may have originated. That website hosts personal testimonies. Much evidence suggests Kilroy originated with US troops but one of the legends talks of ancient Irish Lore : “Kilroy, son of here”.  

Here is the poem by Peter Viereck:

Also Ulysses once--that other war
(Is it because we find his scrawl
Today on every privy door
That we forget his ancient role?)
Also was there--he did it for the wages--
When a Cathay-drunk Genoese set sail.
Whenever "longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,"
Kilroy is there;
he tells the Miller's Tale.
At times he seems a paranoiac king
Who stamps his crest on walls and says, "My own!"
But in the end he fades like a lost tune,
Tossed here and there, whom all the breezes sing.
"Kilroy was here"; these words sound wanly gay,
Haughty yet tired with long marching.
He is Orestes--guilty of what crime?--
For whom the Furies still are searching;
When they arrive they find their prey
(leaving his name to mock them) went away.
Sometimes he does not flee from them in time:
"Kilroy was--"
(with his blood a dying man
Wrote half the phrase out in Bataan.)
Kilroy, beware. "HOME" is the final trap
That lurks for you in many a wily shape:
In pipe-and-slippers plus a Loyal Hound
Or fooling around, just fooling around.
Kind to the old (their warm Penelope)
But fierce to boys,
thus "home" becomes the sea,
Horribly disguised, where you were always drowned,--
(How could suburban Crete condone
The yarns you would have V-mailed from the sun?)--
And folksy fishes sip Icarian tea.
One stab of hopeless wings imprinted your
Exultant Kilroy-signature
Upon sheer sky for all the world to stare:
"I was there! I was there! I was there!"
God is like Kilroy; He, too, sees it all;
That's how He knows of every sparrow's fall;
That's why we prayed each time the tightropes cracked
On which our loveliest clowns contrived their act
The G. I. Faustus who was everywhere
Strolled home again, "What was it like outside?"
Asked Can't, with his good neighbors Ought and But
And pale Perhaps and grave-eyed Better Not;
For "Kilroy" means: the world is very wide.
He was there, he was there, he was there!
And in the suburbs Can't sat down and cried.

The English version of the Wikipedia article Kilroy was here states that the graffito's origins are debatable.  It mentions the names Kilroy has throughout the world:  Chad, Some, Clem, Moita, Foo was here, Sapo.

The French version of the Wikipedia article Kilroy was Here suggest only that the graffito originated with the US troops in Normandy. There is a detailed list of uses in popular culture.  The French version states that during the conference of Potsdam, Stalin asked his assistant “Who is Kilroy?”  Noteworthy uses in popular culture for 'Kilroy Was Here' are: Isaac Asimov’s “The Message” (1955), Elia Kazan’s film A Street Car Named Desire (1951), and in the Manga Prophecy de Tetsuya Tsutsui.  See the article for a full list.

The Italian version of the Wikipedia article Kilroy Was Here also states that the origins are debatable.  The etymologyst David Wilton published an article stating that Chad, the English version and Kilroy the U.S. version fused during the war.  It doesn’t say which war.  The Italian version also reports that Stalin asked the famous question and that Hitler thought Kilroy was an American super-spy.  The Italian links to other mentions in popular culture that the French article doesn’t state.

The Straight Dope article about Kilroy is worth reading.  It mentions that the New York Times published an article about Kilroy in 1946. 

All of the articles say that the significance of the graffito, Kilroy, is not the illustration itself but its ubiquitous appearances. 
Edited 5 April, 2015

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Op-ed Cartoon for Janet Reid's blog

If you follow awesome lit agent Janet Reid's blog, this is for you.

 This was fun, more to come.  I may need help with captions.  The drawing is the easy part.