Sunday, July 06, 2008

Underdog and Me


Bath Time

In the late 80s through the mid 90s after I had stopped drawing the Poodle Doodles comic strip, I began drawing and painting on wood. I started out painting seasonal items for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Initially these became household decorations. Many of them are still displayed around our house, inside and out for the holidays to this day.

When my wife's best friend, Elaine, saw some of these pieces she wanted some for her house too. Before long my evenings and weekends would find me at my workbench in the basement creating my painted wood items.

Elaine became a promoter of my work and began showing up with orders from her sisters and friends at her job. By that time I had begun to sell my wood cutouts. By all accounts, I should have been paying her a commission. Since she was decorating her house with my pieces at no charge however, a commission was a moot point.

For a while I sold some of my work in the front yard. Then I moved up to craft shows in the area. Selling from my yard and at craft shows quickly became old, as packing and unpacking became a drag, not to mention being "nickled-and-dimed" to death by potential customers.

It was when I found a lady who run a business renting wall space to crafters, that I began to make some pretty good money. Those who make and sell crafts are well aware that the hard part of crafting is setting the prices of your finished projects. In addition to covering the expense of your materials, you have to figure how much your time is worth.

I rented a four-by-eight foot shelved niche at $65 per month. She would collected the money from the sales and at the end of the month would deduct the rent, and cut me a check for the balance. For the first three months, October through December, I covered my rent on the very first day of the month. At he end of that period, I had netted nearly $3,000!

Some of my best customers were kids - Baby Boomer kids - who waxed nostalgic when they looked at my wood cutouts of cartoon characters, especially those they'd watched growing up.

Few of those pieces remain in my possession today. One that was I able to find in a corner in the basement is this one of Underdog. It measures 6 1/2 x 5 inches and was painted onto a piece of scrap clear pine.

The process I used to produce this piece wasn't simple. The original image of this character was only 3 1/4 x 2 1/2 inches. I didn't have a computer back then, much less a scanner, so in order to enlarge the picture I had to use graph paper. I had to redraw the image increasing its size by double.

Using carbon paper, I next transfered the image onto the wood. With an indelible ink pen I retraced the carbon lines. It was then ready to be cutout using a scroll saw. After the wood had been cut out and sanded and all the edges smoothed, I covered the piece with one coat of flat white primer. When dried, and as intended, the inked lines bled through. These lines were then again traced in with the pen.

The next step was to apply water-based acrylic paints to the figure. The lines would then be retraced one more time, this time with a water-proof Sharpie pen. Finally the last step was to coat the piece with two or three coats of water-based clear varnish to protect the finished product. Depending on how the piece was to be displayed, it would be fitted onto a base or hangers would be attached to its back.

Voila! Never fear ... Underdog is here!
Now that I have sufficiently bored you with the finer details of wood crafting, how about some jokes?
Haunted Cab?

A taxi passenger tapped the driver on the shoulder to ask him a question. The driver screamed, lost control of the car, nearly hit a bus, went up on the footpath, and stopped just centimeters from a shop window.

For a second everything went quiet in the cab, then the driver said, "Look mate, don't ever do that again. You scared the daylights out of me!"

The passenger apologized and said, "I didn't realize that a little tap would scare you so much."

The driver replied, "Sorry, it's not really your fault. Today is my first day as a cab driver. I've been driving a funeral van for the last 25 years."

Little Johnny Knows

A stranger was seated next to Little Johnny on the plane when the stranger turned to the Little Johnny and said, "Let's talk. I've heard that flights will go quicker if you strike up a conversation with your fellow passenger."

Little Johnny, who had just opened his book, closed it slowly, and said to the stranger, "What would you like to discuss?"

"Oh, I don't know," said the stranger. "How about nuclear power?"

"OK," said Little Johnny. "That could be an interesting topic. But let me ask you a question first. "A horse, a cow, and a deer all eat grass. The same stuff. Yet a deer excretes little pellets, while a cow turns out a flat patty, and a horse produces clumps of dried grass. Why do you suppose that is?"

"Jeez," said the stranger. "I have no idea."

"Well, then," said Little Johnny, "How is it that you feel qualified to discuss nuclear power when you don't know shit?"

Coming Unhinged

Bubba was fixing a door and he found that he needed a new hinge, so he sent Mary Louise to the hardware store. At the hardware store Mary Louise saw a beautiful teapot on a top shelf while she was waiting for Joe Bob to finish waiting on a customer.

When Joe Bob was finished, Mary Louise asked, "How much is the teapot?"

Joe Bob replied "That's silver and it costs $100!"

"My goodness, that sure is a lotta money!" Mary Louise exclaimed.

She then proceeded to describe the hinge that Bubba had sent her to buy, and Jo Bob went to the backroom to find a hinge. From the backroom Joe Bob yelled "Mary Louise, you wanna screw for that hinge?"

To which Mary Louise replied, "No, but I will for the teapot."



kenju said...

I am surprised that you don't still paint, Mike. That is very good, and nowadays, with a computer, making the right-sized image would be a snap!

Hale McKay said...


There are a number of reasons I got away from the wood painting - the most prominent being that my eyesight changed and I couldn't see well enough for the detail work. I cannot stand glasses on the bridge of my nose.

Now that I need glasses (magnifiers not prescription) to read, I am beginning to get used to them.

I will return to it again someday, I'm sure - especially when I retire
in a few years.