Artwork:”Ol’ Smokey Joe

Ol’ Smokey Joe was a bunch of fun. The product of sitting down and having no idea what to create. Usually, this is how things start for me; browsing through hard-drive’s full of photos, have-baked ideas, all waiting for inspiration to come. 

Can’t catch ol’ Smokey Joe.
He’s a hi-wheeler y’know.
Riding for five,
and gone before dawn,
he keeps keepin’ on
with a penny
and a song. 

Then it hit me.
A picture of a Penny-Farthing bicycle I found a few years ago. I love these old bikes. They have a distinctive old-world charm or me … a fun mix of cartoon and real life. Iconic to human inventiveness… even though it wasn’t practical. It was difficult to mount and dangerous too, as you were precariously set high above its big wheel. And if you were faced with a quick maneuver or having to brake suddenly to avoid an unforeseen obstacle, you might find yourself committed to a hurtful fall.
Anyway, I’ve always wanted an art-piece with this idea as the primary subject. 

Joe’s face was a happy accident in a way. The bicycle and rider I had only as a black silhouette. So I wanted a face, but it needed the same old-world look to it. Strangely, I came across a photo of John Wilkes Booth (Yes, the person that assassinated President Lincoln), no political message intended here; I used it as a placeholder for the rider’s face, skewing it a little, angling the face towards the direction of movement. I then blurred it, added grain, and increased the contrast, all of which happily gave a perfect character. I kept it.

Of course, the pipe came next. Again, symbolic of yesteryear style, and besides, I liked the contrast between cycling and smoking, such whimsical satire! It also reminded me of an uncle who lived in Holland, an avid smoker and an unstoppable cyclist… he would boil meat in pots of butter, drink hard liquor and play chess until midnight. Y’know, the good ol’ days 🙂

Alright smokin’ and ridin’… so what? What’s the idea here?

This is where I turned the imagery into an archetype of the working class. Those of us up-before-the-dawn, bringing our energy to the day, to be productive and useful. The glow of the morning, like the glow in the pipe; poetically the fire of life and the living. The ‘rat race.’

Number 5 – Five days a week is the apparent allusion here. Although, it is my favourite number as well. And since he seems to be in a race, a numbered jersey is perfectly fitting the situation.

Again, I am striving to dovetail visuals with the psyche, so a few other little ideas are; the handlebar on the bike was referred to as a ‘moustache handlebar’, and the person also has a ‘handlebar moustache.’ … yes, this is how I amuse myself. And for the rest, the background is Venice. A simple vacation picture from my honeymoon in 2009. Again, supporting that old-world style I was going for. That’s it.