Monthly Archives: June 2011

Jack Johnson and the “Fight of the Century”

Here’s a printed version of the text above:

“When asked to reveal the secret to his legendary virility, Johnson replied, ‘Eat jellied eels and think distant thoughts.’ ”

“On July 4th, 1910 heavyweight boxers Jack Johnson and former undefeated champion James Jeffries met in Reno, Nevada in what has been called “the Fight of the Century”. The fight was billed as a contest for racial superiority, and Jeffries was touted by many as the “Great White Hope” who would defeat Johnson once and for all. Johnson knocked Jeffries down for the first time in his career twice in the 15th round and his manager threw in the towel. In the riots which erupted throughout the U.S. following the fight, about 25 people, mostly African American, were killed and hundreds more injured.”

“One of Johnson’s wives, despondent over his repeated abuse and infidelity, committed suicide…He remarried less than three months later.”

I discovered the Chicago connection to this story after I’d begun the illustration. His first wife, Etta Duryea, and Jack Johnson are buried together in Chicago’s opulent Graceland cemetery, resting place of many Chicago luminaries including Marshall Field, L. Mies van der Rohe, George M. Pullman and others, though his relatively simple grave marker only displays his last name, and no other information.

Etta Duryea was a upscale socialite and like many of his women, white, which didn’t sit well with people of either race at the time. She suffered from acute depression which wasn’t helped by Johnson’s frequent womanizing and physical abuse. In 1912, she committed suicide with a revolver in the couple’s apartment.


Many thanks to my friend and sports memorabilia collector Jon Oye for scanning these tobacco cards from that era. (He has his own blog, Contemplations on Classic Movies and Music, which I highly recommend.

Coming from an era when African Americans weren’t allowed to compete with whites in any sports other than boxing (even that being a rarity), Jack Johnson, though his unmatched fighting skills and larger-than-life persona, became one of the nation’s first true media celebrities and sports superstars.

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Father’s Day

When I was a kid, my family and I lived in a remote, unincorporated area about 20 miles west of Chicago. My dad was an electrical engineer for the Electromotive division of General Motors in LaGrange, Illinois, at a time when working for one employer your whole career was the norm. He loved his job, but always had a side interest in drawing and illustration. As a young man in the army, he drew some cartoons for his outfit’s newsletter and occasionally would do drawings for coworkers at GM and the scouting troops that my brothers and I belonged to.

Sometime when I was grade school age, he signed up for the Famous Artists School book series and correspondence course. I remember him working on some of the lessons in the evening’s and on weekends. He would do the assignments and send them off to be graded and critiqued by professional illustrators, who would return the work with hand-written notations in the margin. Even now the unique smell and texture of the grey kneaded erasers reminds me of that time. Other tools of the trade from that time included plastic trays for mixing various hues and shades of gouache, and bottles of India ink, which inspired this website’s name.

My dad just turned 83 last month, and like many his age, he’s experiencing some challenging health issues. Thankfully my mother is still in good health and takes good care of him. He didn’t fully complete the Famous Artists School courses, and never became a famous artist himself, but he inspired me to pursue my own career in the field, for which I’ll always be grateful.

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Skybox on Sheffield 3D rendering

This was a quick turnaround job for “Skybox on Sheffield”, a recently renovated space across from Chicago Cubs’ Wrigley Field baseball park. The client wanted a simplified 3D rendering of their space for their website and promotional materials.

It used to be the houses across the street from Wrigley had simple rooftops from which owners and their friends could view the game. No more. These spaces have been converted to luxurious facilities offering a first class viewing experience. The third floor has a club level with bar and plasma screen TVs and the outdoor levels have stadium seating with a grill concession and several bar areas. At my first visit there, I was impressed by the design, and the sight lines from the seats give the illusion of actually being inside the ballpark.

Happy trails to Marshal Dillon

R.I.P. to actor James Arness, who died today at the age of 88. Arness is best remembered as Marshal Dillon on “Gunsmoke”, which was by far TV’s longest running western, airing from 1955 through 1975. I did this piece a while back and it seemed fitting for today’s news.

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