Sunday, March 11, 2018

make a circuit with me

I draw. I draw a lot. I have been drawing for a very long time. When I was a kid, every spare piece of paper, napkin, notebook, scratch pad and cardboard in our house was covered with the little scribbled pictures that sprouted from my imagination. For years, the only way anyone could see my drawings was to come in close proximity to the refrigerator in our kitchen, which, at times, resembled a magnet-adorned Louvre that also kept the family's food cold. My mother, the curator of the Josh Pincus collection, regularly rotated my drawings on the refrigerator door, carefully archiving examples from my earlier periods in order to display the latest in my portfolio. Of course, the bulk of those sketches were lost when my parents passed away and the contents of their house was dispersed. And by "dispersed," I, of course, mean "sent to a dumpster." Some of my post-adolescent works were salvaged, though. The body of work I produced during my four years in art school were housed in my basement for some time, until several drenching rainstorms and burst pipe rendered the entire collection soaked, mold-covered and, thereby, ruined.

Well, eleven years ago this month, I discovered a new outlet where I could put my drawings on display — the internet! As a regular contributor to Illustration Friday, an art blog that issues a weekly drawing challenge, I decided to gather all of my drawings in one convenient spot for all the world to see. That central location is Josh Pincus is Crying that you've all come to know and love... or loathe, as the individual case may be. In addition to the weekly Illustration Friday posting, I have supplemented the content with stories from my youth and seasonal illustrations (like the annual Inktober challenge, a month-long celebration of monochrome drawings defined by the inked line, computer-generated or otherwise). Sprinkled throughout my illustration blog is the subject matter which has generated the most buzz and has gained me a small (very small) following as well as a macabre reputation. Of course, I am speaking of my love — and borderline obsession — with dead celebrities. Portraits of deceased celebrities  — both globally famous and unsung — make up a good portion of the posting on my blog. Recently, I even created a searchable category called "Dead Celebrity Spotlight" for which I post a new illustration and accompanying story every Friday morning.

First contact.
Over the decade-plus that I have maintained this blog, I've been contacted by folks who share (or at least claim to share) a connection to the subject of several drawings I have done. The first, and most notorious in the annals of the JPiC blog, came in April 2008 when I received an angry email from a fellow who was quite offended by my drawing and tale of Peg Entwistle. Peg, a nascent young actress who faced disappointment in the early days of Hollywood, leaped from the top of the "H" in the famed Hollywood sign, plunging forty-four feet to her death. My accuser was critical of nearly every aspect of my drawing (he said I was "sick") and my story (he pointed out discrepancies in times, days and locations). He even accused me of plagiarism. Prior to his barrage of emails, I had never heard of him. I gathered information from creative commons sources and other repositories of royalty-free content. This fellow was not satisfied by my calm and civil replies. He threatened me with lawsuits while he spewed the filthiest of insults at me, my work and my skills. He eventually gave up, but I got a great story.

Second contact.
Soon after the "Peg Entwistle" incident (as it has come to be known), I was contacted by another angry reader who didn't care for my portrayal of session drummer Jim Gordon. Gordon, for the uninformed or non-readers of my blog, was a member of a roster of musicians collectively known as "The Wrecking Crew." This revolving group of instrumentalists surrounding a core group of members performed, uncredited, on thousands of hit songs throughout the 1960s and 70s. Gordon was also a member of Derek and the Dominos, the blues-rock band fronted by Eric Clapton. Gordon composed and performed the iconic outro on the the classic song "Layla." He also beat his mother with a hammer and stabbed her to death with a butcher knife. He currently resides in a psychiatric prison in Vacaville, California. Someone identifying herself as "Layla Gordon" emailed me to express her displeasure with my drawing and story about Gordon and his fellow Wrecking Crew drummer Hal Blaine. "Layla" insulted my talent, corrected my knowledge, questioned my research and cursed my existence. I replied in the most polite and even-tempered manner, only to be subjected to salvo number two (and eventually three). I chronicled our exchange in another post on my blog and was soon contacted by a different woman, this one offering a more sympathetic tone. Emailer Number Two explained that my original antagonizer had threatened her in the same way she threatened me. This compassionate ally identified herself as the spouse of one of Jim Gordon's band mates and a quick Google search confirmed her claim. She also requested that I keep our conversation confidential. I guess I just broke that promise.

Third contact.
In March 2008, I spun the grisly tale of Edward Hickman, a 20-year-old disgruntled bank employee who abducted, murdered and dismembered his boss's 12-year-old daughter. Hickman was tried and, despite one of California's first "insanity pleas," was executed at San Quentin Prison in 1928. I admit I told the story in lurid detail, but that's how I do things when I feel the subject warrants it. It's that "life ain't always pretty" philosophy that inspires me sometimes. Nearly four months after I published that story, I was contacted by another Edward Hickman, first with comments left on the post, then via email. This Edward claimed to be the murderer's nephew. He actually complimented my drawing of his relative. He also alleged that his uncle was remorseful of his actions, a claim I could not corroborate in all of my research. A month or so later the younger Edward reached out to me again, asking for a high-resolution image of my drawing. I happily complied and made a few bucks on the transaction.

Fourth contact.
In 2012, I briefly chronicled the life of Max Manning, a beloved sixth-grade teacher at a school in southern New Jersey. Manning, unbeknown to his devoted students, was a star player in the Negro Leagues in the 1940s. A victim of racial discrimination at the hands of the Detroit Tigers, Manning ended up pitching for the Newark Eagles. His stellar on-field performance helped the Eagles overcome the mighty Kansas City Monarchs to win the 1946 Negro League World Series. With no chance of playing in the segregated big leagues and faced with the responsibility of providing for his family, Max walked away from baseball. He attended Glassboro State College on the GI Bill and graduated with a teaching degree. He taught at Pleasantville Elementary School for 28 years until his retirement. The summer after I published Max's story, I received a comment on the post from Belinda Manning, Max's grown daughter. Belinda admitted that, during a bout of insomnia, she "googled" her father's name and was directed to my blog. She praised my rendering of her dad and lauded my account of his life. Belinda maintains her own blog where she expounds on her family history and the history of the Pleasantville/Atlantic City, New Jersey area. She also touches on instances of social and racial injustice.

Fifth contact.
Back in October 2017, as part of my "Dead Celebrity Spotlight" series, I wrote and illustrated another hard-luck story. This one was about Leona Gage, a hopeful actress and disgraced beauty pageant contestant. Leona led a sad and troubled life, filled with tough breaks, poor decisions and bad advice. Just yesterday, I got a comment on the blog post. It was just three words: "That's my mother." Then, the same fellow sent a message on my Facebook page. His Facebook message was a bit longer. It read: "You drew an interesting picture of my mother Leona Gage. Thanks for the story." I replied with a thank you and then spent the next twenty or so minutes engaged in a sweet and insightful conversation with him, touching on my love of the Golden Age of Hollywood and my penchant for cemetery visits. Soon, he was revealing insight into his mother's life that were not present in any article or clipping I uncovered in my research for the original piece. I researched him a bit and discovered that, based on his uncommon last name and the fact that I made no mention of his father's name in my story, this guy must be who he says he is. After all, if you're going to make a "claim of fame," why would you reference someone so obscure? I thanked him for the information and for his kind words about my artwork.

These little encounters are a testament to the power and reach of the internet. I suppose it also confirms that there's always someone, somewhere, who'll read and react to stuff I write.

Maybe you'll see a loved one depicted in a JPIC drawing before too long. Who knows? Wait.... I know.

You can get you very own Josh Pincus is Crying custom portrait.
CLICK HERE for details.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad I haven't been subjected to the haters. Well, there was one, but I know that guy, and he's a hater with or without the internet. I also haven't had to deal with proselytizing like your wife had to deal with. I'm feeling lucky, and also afraid I'm going to be struck by lightning now. Keep writing and drawing. BTW, I don't think I'm getting all the notices of your posts.