Saturday, October 31, 2015

Exhibit of Pencil Sharpener Posters

Poster © Roy R. Behrens 2015
Above Poster for an exhibition of graphic design student posters about historic pencil sharpeners, from the P.D. Whitson Collection. Department of Art, University of Northern Iowa.


From Bernard Wolfe, Memoirs of a Not Altogether Shy Pornographer (Garden City NY: Doubleday and Company, 1972), p. 43-44—

Art makes order out of chaos, do they still teach that hogwash in the schools? It’s liars who give order to chaos, then go around calling themselves artists and in this way gave art a bad name. Here high up on their cerebral peaks are all the artists sifting and sorting out the facts and pasting them together any old way to show how neat it all is and how they’re at the controls of the whole works, and there under their feet the facts go on tulmulting and pitching them on their asses over and over, and what’s the whole demonstration worth? Don’t tell me the real artists are tidiers. Céline is in the grand spatter business. Henry Miller spatters too, though a good part of the time by plan, by program, and that’s his tension. Hemingway held it all in his tight hand and pretended it was one packed ball of wax till the end, then his true spewing self came out and he spattered all right, spattered all his order-making brains over the livingroom, and the lie of having it all together was done for, he arrived at the moment of going at his authenticity, his one moment of truth. When do you see Dostoevsky laying out his reality with a T-square?  

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Problems of Poets as Poets

Digital montage © Roy R. Behrens (2015)
William H. Gass, "The Soul Inside the Sentence" in Habitations of the Word (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984), p. 119—

People call themselves poets and painters, and seek help for their failures, as I might come to a psychiatrist to discover the causes of my vaulter's block or to find out why I can't get anywhere in nuclear physics. Indeed, regularly people push through the turnstiles of the critic's day who feel very strongly the need to pass as poets, to be called "creative," to fit into a certain niche, acquire an identity the way one acquires plants there's no time to tend or goldfish that can't be kept alive, and their problems are important and interesting and genuine enough; but they are not the problems of poets as poets, any more than the child who tiptoes to school on the tops of fences has the steelworker's nerves or nervousness or rightly deserves his wage.


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Shunting, Hooting and Milking the Bull

Montage © Roy R. Behrens 2015
Elias Canetti (The Human Province)—

He lays sentences like eggs, but he forgets to incubate them.


Samuel Johnson

Truth, Sir, is a cow which will yield such people no more milk, and so they are gone to milk the bull. 


Sir Frederick John Burrows

Unlike my predecessors, I have devoted more of my life to shunting and hooting than to hunting and shooting [alluding to his former career as a railway man].

Brushed by the Grasses of Self-Reproach

Montage | Roy R. Behrens 2015 | Puffin Wikipedia
Mae West

You're a fine woman, Lou. One of the finest women that ever walked the streets.


Pierre-Jules Renard

It should not be thought that laziness is unproductive. Within it, you live intensely, like a hare listening. You swim in it like water; and are brushed by the grasses of self-reproach.


Charles Dickens (The Pickwick Papers)—

Miss Bolo rose from the table considerably agitated, and went straight home, in a flood of tears and a sedan chair.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Guy Davenport's Mushrooms

Roy R. Behrens © illustrations for Guy Davenport (1979)
In speaking with students, I am increasingly puzzled by how quickly and completely society's past has been effaced by popular culture. They've all read Harry Potter of course, but are totally unfamiliar with Charles Dickens or H.L. Mencken ("old white guys," as one explained). They are thoroughly acquainted with the Mario Brothers, but have never heard of the James brothers, William (the writer) and Henry (the psychologist). Not even the Marx Brothers.

Above are stages in illustrations I designed in 1979 (full-color cover and six interior collages) to complement a short story by American fiction writer, essayist and scholar Guy Davenport, with whom I was then corresponding. Each day, increasingly few can understand what the imagery refers to, since education now rarely includes such peripheral gems of history as Paolo Ucello, Albrecht Dürer, Thomas Eakins, William Hogarth's line of beauty, Stanley Spencer—and Guy Davenport.


Guy Davenport, in "Pleasant Hill," an interview by Bernard Hoepffner—

I am a minor writer because I deal in mere frissons and adventitious insights, and with things peripheral.…


I'm not a novelist. Paul Klee was not a muralist. My ambition is to write as little as possible, in the smallest possible space.
     All my discrete paragraphing is to force the reader to read. Most narrative prose can be read by running one's eye down the page. If I've worked one hour on a sentence, I want the reader to pay attention to it. I hope there's a web of symbols and themes running through all the stories.


The major writers in whose shadows I grow my mushrooms are Osip Mandelstam, Donald Barthelme, Robert Walser, and Walter Savage Landor.

See also this.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Explorations of Type | Chase Murphy

all images © Chase Murphy 2015
On a recent somber autumn day, my spirits were lifted by running across the work from last semester of Chase Murphy, who earned a BA in Graphic Design at the University of Northern Iowa in May of 2015.

In that semester, he was enrolled in a class I taught on the History of Design. When asked to take on related research, he created a stunningly beautiful book about historical typefaces. Each typeface was assigned a spread in which its finest attributes were described in a brief narrative and then visually conveyed by a fresh and engaging arrangement of type. Shown here are examples of only one side of a few of the spreads, but the spreads in full are online here.