I’d sell my wife, my dog, and both my daughters to be able to draw; I’m sure they wouldn’t mind, not after all I’ve done for them. But since that sort of compact exists only in weird fiction, I’m stuck, goddammit, with doodling.
Every day of my life till I was about 22, I drew, and drew, and drew, but I never got really good—or, truthfully, any good. With a biblical shake of my fist, I used to blame that sorrowful defeat on my Catholic education, which from kindergarten through high school never offered a single art class, as well as on our dismal family finances, which prevented me (Aw, c’mon, Ma, we don’t have to eat!) from enrolling in the Famous Artists home-study school founded—in the magical realm of Westport, Connecticut!—by a lot of big-name guys like Norman Rockwell and Al Capp. Finally, though, I realized that nothing, nothing could’ve made me a decent artist; the realization dawned at long last the day I was brought to salty tears of frustration by my inability to figure out how to assemble an Office Max cardboard box—Side A goes where? I had, and I have, no 3D faculties whatsoever—none! So how the hell had I ever expected to draw figures in space and learn and apply scientific perspective?
So I’ve doodled. And what I’ve doodled have been, mostly, heads. My head. Or profile. Or face. Usually scowling, often screaming. The expressions I’m capable of rendering—of capturing!—run the gamut from melancholic to incurably mad. (I honestly don’t understand it myself–I’m such a happy-go-lucky mild guy.) I’ve been doing these self-caricatures since the early 1970s.
Many of the ones from, well, from my “early period” I dashed off during business hours while working in Manhattan as an assistant editor for a trio of girlie magazines (Mr., Man to Man, and Sir!); they were doodled, in Bic or Flair pens, on the backs of little square rejection slips. I had a drawer full of those babies (“Histrionic Publishing Co., Inc./280 Madison Avenue/New York, N.Y. 10016/We regret that we are unable to use the enclosed material. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to consider it. THE EDITORS”) and spent much of my time paperclipping ’em to slush-pile manuscripts. Every so often, though, I’d take a cigarette break right at my desk…and doodle on a few.
Not too long ago, a manila envelope turned up containing a batch of these self-caricatures—all of them drawn between 1973 (when I was 24) and 1979 (when I was 30), and since almost every café that I’ve ever walked into has had some kind of artwork gracing the walls, I thought that Café Pinfold ought to, as well….