Friday, August 16, 2013
I am curious as to why so many quantities printed in Pennysaver ads are in parentheses. So far two of the drawings I've done feature this idiosyncratic punctuation and there are, as you might guess, more to come. Also, who knew you could get a couple of bowling balls for the low, low price of nada?
Saturday, August 3, 2013
Perhaps an introduction is in order:
Welcome, curiosity seeker/lurker/distant relative, to Or Best Offer. This blog will chronicle a series of drawings I’m doing based on listings I find in the Pennysaver, a.k.a. the circular of oddball free-verse classifieds that appears in my mailbox each week, and with which I have a mild but persistent obsession.
Now you might have questions such as “what is the allure of the Pennysaver?” and “are you drawing the listing or what’s described in the listing?” and “this sounds like a lot of horseshit, if you ask me.” To which I would probably reply, “it’s complicated,” and “some combination of the two,” and “that’s not a question, chief.” And if you pressed me further, and you seemed genuinely interested, and maybe plied me with a couple of free drinks, I’d oblige you with some background, like I’m about to do right now, even though you didn’t buy me any drinks, you cheapskate:
In 2011 I decided to draw every front page of the LA Times for an entire year (the results of which can be seen at Mixed Media Daily ). That project proved to be a great incubator for a whole host of themes—our relationship to the media we consume, our waning love affair with paper/physical goods, typography, advertising, and so on. It was great fun, but inevitably it had to end. And so, after a year of late nights and countless worn-down Mono 2Bs, my inky muse and I parted ways.
Of course finishing the project did not mean that I was finished with the ideas that had sprouted from its loamy expanse. I found myself jonesing for another media source that would provide me with a bumper crop of au courant text that I could harvest, grist I would mill into more drawings and more strangely elaborate farming metaphors.
Let’s cut to my art materials cabinet. In there, flattened under a pad of tracing paper that I never seem to find any use for, is a small stack of Pennysavers in which I have highlighted any listing that caught my fancy because of the way it was written, or because the item offered was intriguing (e.g., “For Sale: Bull Skull”), or because of some cryptic possibility that would no doubt reveal itself to me if I held onto it (a rationalization that is not, I imagine, dissimilar to that of the compulsive hoarder).
Soon enough I put two and two together and concluded that those little text blocks in the Pennysaver were written to 1) make you visualize something, and 2) make you desire the thing visualized. And there’s a weird intimacy in the deal: you are being invited to inspect a tiny detail of a person’s life, a detail on which that person has made a judgment (set a price). And you, the prospective buyer, are being asked to validate their assessment (agree to their price). It’s a commercial transaction, but it's something more as well. I don’t know exactly what it is, but it was enough to get me started; the Pennysaver’s endless lists of want and need were making my pencil move (settle down, Freudians…). And really, when presented with an opportunity to dream up 60 potted cacti (an entry I have highlighted but not yet tackled) I cannot in good conscience say “no.”
I’ll be posting outcomes here from time to time. I might throw in some commentary occasionally. And, if I ever come across a Pennysaver listing that I feel compelled to own (I have once or twice), and if I act on that desire (I have not yet), I’ll tell you all about it.