Friday
Aug052011

Frankensaab

I first became acquainted with Saabs when my uncle Van (more like a big brother because we are only four years apart) and I crawled out of his first really nice car, a deep green 1972 Saab 99, after a deer evading manuever nosed it into a weedy ditch on a country road one dark night in 1977. First, we rolled over, then flipped backwards end over end. It would have been spectacular to watch. The car was totalled, we were shaken, but we walked away. In 1983, I bought a brand new 900S. We'll skip the stories, but that car eventually took several nasty beatings, the last of which resulted in my replacing it with a 5 door 1980 frog green turbo. When that car died of less violent causes, I got a 1985 turbo, in which I moved to Seattle, where I hope it is still in service. Years later, when my present wife's daughter needed a first car, I insisted on a Saab 900. Good thing, because she tried to take down a very stout tree with it, and a lesser car would have killed her for her effort rather than allowing her to be extracted with just a few bruises.

Fast forward to October 2009. Triggered bizarrely somehow by my niece Parisa tragically dying of brain cancer at the tender age of 18, her dad and I bought a pair of old Saabs seeming to their owner to be ready for the junkyard, and drove them to Syracuse from Connecticut. I'd intended that the 1978 99GLE that I'd bought would be my daughters' first car, as it was equipped with an automatic transmission. But it gave up as we pulled into my sister's driveway, and I quickly discovered that parts for a rebuild were no longer available. With death and resurrection on my mind, the Frankensaab project began.

I found a late 1980s front clip in Cincinnati, with a working 16 valve intercooled turbo and a five speed manual transmission, and a mechanic forty miles from my home in Lancaster county, PA who had a reputation for grafting together weird old Saab combinations, including a 900 stretch limo and a mid-engine number with a 5.0 liter Mustang engine behind the driver's seat. After an agonizing and much too expensive 17 months of badgering him to finish the job then iron out the bugs (most notably that the turbo did not kick in) I have the car sitting in front of my house, as you see it here. FOR SALE. My buddy Nevin and I are going out to Abbottstown this afternoon to pick up the old motor which Tina will kill me if I bring into the house as I have other oily automotive remnants. Nora and Noble still need a car that they can drive, and believe me, this ain't it. It is highly entertaining, rust and dent free, and has the beautifully redone interior that was part of the buying argument in the first place, but it is definitely a wild thing that requires skill and attention to drive safely. I'm enjoying it while I can, but responsible adulthood is bearing down on me inexorably. At least for now.8 1/4 x 11 9/16, watercolor pencil on damp paper

My brother-in-law in his driveway with his 1972 Saab 95 and the future Frankensaab

Wednesday
Aug032011

Howell/Roan 283

Okay, much better. My apologies for ranting and sharing too much (my third ex-wife, who is from Virginia, would call it "showing your ass") in yesterday's post. I hope it was at least amusing, and gave some hint of credit to my present wife and companion of over ten years for her tolerance for those of us who thrash through life with an uneven temperament. But this isn't a diary - I apologize again.

Neill Archer Roan, with whom I've become friends through the pipe collecting (translate: obsession) community and other common interests, has written an outstanding blog for over four years now called "A Passion for Pipes". Suffice to say that it makes my site look like a junior high school newsletter. To celebrate his longevity on the web (really just an excuse, right Neill?) he persuaded pipe carver and musician Jack Howell to take orders for up to 100 specimens of a unique historic Comoy shape for his "Pipe of the Year 2011". They're gorgeous, perfectly balanced, timelessly styled pieces. To try to redeem myself from a lousy effort yesterday morning, I spent about an hour and a half before work hours this morning out on the balcony, doing a careful drawing. And yes, my patience did run out when I kept dropping pencils from my overstuffed left fistful and kept forgetting which color I was holding between my teeth, but I did not scribble, swear, or behave in a hostile fashion towards anyone. I even made coffee for Tina before I started. But anyway, this morning's effort is for Neill and Jack. Hope you guys enjoy it!

"A Passion for Pipes" Pipe of the Year by Jack Howell, 8 x 11, watercolor pencil and 2B graphite

detail of the pipe

Tuesday
Aug022011

Cranky start

Whoa boy do I ever NOT have much patience for drawing this morning. Of course, feeling cranky as hell, I chose to draw the most difficult thing I could think of (the old church we live in and the neighbor's from across the street) and sat on the concrete curb trying to lean against a fire hydrant, couldn't get comfortable, didn't like the view, and had a bad attitude to begin with. I'd much rather have just sat on the balcony with a cup of coffee and a pipe. And now I'm crabbier because I couldn't get my head into the scene in front of me enough to deal with all the layers of tree foliage, the difficult forms of the buildings, the cars parked out front, well enough to understand the perspective angles. Then my across the street neighbor Rick, in front of whose house I was fuming at my sketchbook, pulled up to the curb, got out of his car, and stood over my shoulder asking me how much I'd charge to do a drawing of his house. I tried to be civil but instead made a lame excuse and grumbled something evasive in a "go away" tone, and he slunk away after complimenting my HORRIBLE SKETCH. I'll have to apologize when I see him again if he doesn't run the other way. I know - I'll further humiliate myself by posting a photo of what it really looks like so everyone who comes here can see how badly I screwed it up along with enduring my rant! I'm going to have to do some work, let my mood reset, and try again later. God, I'm like a grumpy six year old!

hasty scrawl of our house (right) and the neighbor's (left)

the actual scene

Saturday
Jul302011

Old Saab in Syracuse

I almost didn't put these up. The rear quarter panel in the color sketch is too short and the rear wheel too small, and the foreshortening is a little whacked. But hell, cars are hard to draw accurately. Besides, I can't just show the good stuff if this blog has anything to do with process. The car is pretty cool, though. It's late and I just got in from six hours on the road, so I won't talk about my little Saab obsession right now. Maybe tomorrow.

1972 Saab 95 in Syracuse, NY

a much quicker and more accurate sketch of the same car

Friday
Jul292011

Scribbly mood

Honestly, I get more pleasure out of this when I don't think at all about trying to make a nice picture, and I just cut loose with a 2B pencil. It goes quickly and follows my mood and my pinballing attention. I can concentrate on a profile that I want to capture accurately, then I can scribble, responding to how a shadow or texture makes me feel. It's great fun. Sometimes I enjoy drawing much more carefully, but not today. Just like sometimes I like a neatly arranged desk, but this morning, scattered pipes that need cleaning and no place to put anything down suits me just fine. But I did empty the ashtray . . .

messy desk with pipes and paraphernelia, coffee press, phone, and kleenex box

Rad Davis, Jack Howell, and Trever Talbert