Half-Mast: Studs Terkel

I had intended to post my tribute portrait of the legendary Studs Terkel in a more timely manner (Studs died on Halloween), but was held up by an actual paid assignment (I was just as surprised as you are). Then, thanks to poor planning on my part, I got caught up in the trance-inducing patterns of Terkel's trademark shirt and hat, which I wound up having to produce pixel by pixel over the course of two days.

Software-savvy illustrators often ridicule me when I reveal this secret: I do the bulk of my digital work in MS Paint. That's right, the built-in paint program your two-year-old uses to make color squiggles, that's what I'm working with. I started working this way when I first got the computer and never stopped. I tweak the image here and there in Photoshop at the final stage, but I've never been able to get the level of control in PS that I have in Paint.

But that means that I have to manipulate my scanned line art by hand/mouse, filling in most of the lines with color so they'll dissappear into basic shapes. It sounds crazy, but I hate working in layers (as with Adobe Illustrator) and the process usually goes by quickly.

Usually. Unless that quick 'n easy trick I was going to use for Studs' shirt doesn't look right, and my only recourse is to go back in and salvage the pattern a centimeter at a time.

Serious cramps in my back and mouse hand. But I'm sure a friend of the working man like Studs would appreciate what I went through.


Simmons said...

You're killing me and my family with this stuff!

I love it!

I laughed so hard also at the BIG DADDY material. My big sister, Emily had every one of those toys and kits, and I blew them all to hell!


Can I come by early December?


Steve said...

You're crazy for working with MS Paint to do it so laboriously! You really should try playing with other software like Photoshop. You can even celebrate your stubbornness with an old version. Anyway, I'm with you in that I don't work in layers either.


Amazingly enough, I was exposed to Studs early on via the musical "Working," which was based on one of his many books featuring interviews with good average folk. The theme of the play (and book) can be found in the title, of course. I caught a PBS production and loved it, going on to use the Steelworker's rant about having a book in his pocket ("Hell yes, I read!") as an audition piece for the drama deparment of the North Carolina's Governor's School my junior year in high school. The material was golden, so golden even I couldn't wreck it ... and I made it into the program. My senior year in HS, I went on to play the gas meter reader and the truck driver in a local production of "Working" as well (what can I say - Mark Monday made a better steel worker than a 17-year-old me ever could). Sorry to hear of the passing of Studs ... such characters are fading from the patchwork of America at an alarming rate with no worthly replacements in sight.