Read the Signs

Added on by Doug Dowd.

D.B. Dowd, Bai Lin Real Estate Office, Shanghai. From Spartan Holiday No. 1, 2012.

The longer I live, the more I come to believe that behavior is all. That is, what people say, or intend, or protest (as in, methinks she doth protest too much) tells you squat. We are what we do.

Or, as my friend Bill contends, quoting an obscure source: Form is motive. That's a hell of a sentence: it explains decades to me. In my dotage–when I have learned more–I will write 10,000 words to explicate those three. I will fail, but it will be fun.  

D.B. Dowd, Motel 6, San Rafael, California, 2011. This was my warm-up piece the day I drew Mike Hirshon's wedding. 

D.B. Dowd, detail from "Into the Wilderness," Sam the Dog, Episode 65, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 29, 1998. Re-presented in Trouble in Trapper City: Sam the Dog Revisited 1, Ulcer City Publications, October 2014. 

D.B. Dowd, Rashomon Pizza Oven, Canton, Ohio 2008. 

I am sitting on a finished draft of Spartan Holiday No. 3: French Lesson, based on my 2013 interlude in Paris. Among the sources I read in the process, and quote in the text, is Michel de Montaigne's Les Essais, or Essays, the first such documents in the West. “Anything we do reveals us,” announces Montaigne, correctly. “You judge a horse not only by seeing its paces on a racetrack, but by seeing it walk...by seeing it in its stable.” Wise words, Michel. 

D.B. Dowd, Bradley's Restaurant, Sketchbook Study, Boulder City, Nevada. 2008. 

It might seem that I am building toward pronouncements on things. Not really. Like Montaigne, I am turned inward at the moment, wondering at my own behavior–not others'. Specifically: the stuff I draw. Two big subcategories are sculpture and signage. In both cases, we're talking about representations of representations. Hmmm. Sounds pretty meta. But I don't think of it that way. More like pictorial anthropology, I guess. There are a handful of signs in St. Louis that I have meant to photograph for a very long time. Like maybe for ten years. Guess I better get going on that.  At some point I think that I will do a SH that includes–possibly even consists of–a reflection on signage. 

D.B. Dowd, Only to Wanderers, back cover (left) of Spartan Holiday No. 2: The Five Pagodas. Ulcer City Publications, 2013. Hand-lettering, not signage, but surely inspired by it. Not to mention the Spartan Holiday identity, designed (along with SH) by Scott Gericke and me. (2011.) 

D.B. Dowd, Along Nanjing Road, in Spartan Holiday No. 1: Shanghai Pictorial. Ulcer City Publications, 2012. 

Tonight, I'm pulling together drawings of signs from various sources. Some I tweeted about ten days ago; others I'm adding now. 

D.B. Dowd, Sappington Market LED sign documentation, pencil drawing. South St. Louis, 2010. 

D.B. Dowd, animation still, Scenes from Starkdale, Ohio, 2007.

These things mean more than I can say about them informally, as in a blog. I will try to come back to the question more properly, by which I mean seriously. Something real in the preoccupation. Methinks.