Thursday, December 3, 2009

Origins of the Harvey Heads

When one visits The Pekar Project page at SMITH Magazine, they will find not only comics, but videos, interviews and the wonderful Harvey Heads gallery. Click it and you’ll find over 100 portraits of Harvey by some of the top names in comics (like the one by Rick Parker above) and beyond.

We asked Pekar Project editor Jeff Newelt where the idea for the Harvey Heads gallery came from-

"I came up with the Harvey Heads idea on the subway. I didn’t know what was I going to get Harvey for his 70th birthday, and then I thought, how about something that shows this super humble man how much he's loved in the comics community! What if I got 70 artists to draw 70 Harvey heads in tribute? Turns out we got over 100, and more keep coming in. So with a week from conception, to execution, the Harvey Heads gallery came into being, and it wound up being not only a present he loved, but a veritable buzz bomb because its just so fucking cool, and brought a lot of attention to the Pekar Project that we're all working are heinies off on and also very proud of the results. I'm of the school that if you built it awesomely, they will come. If someone asks how can they get folks to write about what they do or their product I say first make sure whatever it is, is awesome. Otherwise don't waste your time; there are plenty of awesome things for media to write about over a not-awesome thing with a spin."

We at Graphic NYC picked a few of our favorite Harvey Heads and spoke with the artists behind them-

Eric Orchard

What about Harvey Pekar made you say yes right away to the invitation to make a birthday Harvey Head?

"I'm a huge fan! And he's done a lot for the industry by reaching folks who wouldn't otherwise be buying comics."

Did it come to you right away how to approach your Harvey Head?

"I didn't think, I just drew. He is very fun to draw."

Do you have a favorite Harvey head besides your own and why?

Renee French's. I can't get it out of my head."

Michael Falco

What about Harvey Pekar made you say yes right away to the invitation to make a birthday Harvey Head?

"His eyebrows for sure - I'd been practicing drawing owls so his portrait was right up my alley."

Did it come to you right away how to approach your Harvey Head?

"Knowing that some of the big guys in the industry were drawing one as well made me a little weak in the knees. I was also keeping in mind that the project was for his birthday, how do you make a birthday present for someone you don't know?"

Do you have a favorite Harvey head besides your own and why?

"Fred Harper's for sure, something about the way he renders his subject makes me want to draw every day, and simultaneously give up the craft. It's like being a mortal among the gods."

Anything else Pekar or Harvey Head-related you feel like saying?

Jeffrey Brown

What about Harvey Pekar made you say yes right away to the invitation to make a birthday Harvey Head?

"For one, as a cartoonist who's made a career of drawing autobiographical comics, it'd be hard to not pay tribute to one of the foremost practitioners and innovators of the form. I think also somewhere inside me I'm auditioning for a chance to draw a Pekar story someday."

Did it come to you right away how to approach your Harvey Head?

"My Harvey head was pretty straightforward, so maybe it came a little too right away. Having never drawn Harvey before, it was a challenge to get the right feel for it to be true to both Pekar and myself. I think I'd really need to draw a few dozen more Harvey heads to get the hang of it, really."

Do you have a favorite Harvey head besides your own and why?

"I have to say, I really like the Luis Diaz Harvey Head, it's beautiful and striking. There's lots of brilliant heads, actually, after seeing everyone else's it makes me want to do more."

Anything else Pekar or Harvey Head-related you feel like saying?

"I think Pekar has created an important body of work, and he's truly a dedicated artist to stick with it through all the ups and downs of a lengthy career. I think if there's one reason his work isn't always recognized as a prime example of autobiographical comics today, it's because his work is so uniquely Pekar that it's really its own genre."

Rami Efal

Did it come to you right away how to approach your Harvey Head?

"The assignment was pretty straightforward -- a portrait! I just stared hard at Harvey's photo... and the ink did the rest of the job... I remember the eyes were the hook, his stare is powerful and distinct and had to be captured right. Harvey's down to earth realness, humor and honesty are what got me engaged right away."

Josh Bernstein

What about Harvey Pekar made you say yes right away to the invitation to make a birthday Harvey Head?

"Harvey Pekar is one of the founding fathers of the underground comics scene, to get to work and collaborate with a legend like that doesn’t happen every day – how could you say no?"

You were under some constraints with being asked to draw just a head, with maybe a little neck and shoulders, and yet all of your approaches were different. Did it come to you right away how to approach your Harvey Head?

"I like restraints (artistic, not physical) My only goal was to search out photo reference that no one else would have, so I based it on some photos I took of Harvey early last year. I didn’t want to work from the same google images as everyone else. I actually penciled the piece first then lightboxed it when inking. I couldn’t decide which I liked better, so I morphed the two together."

Do you have a favorite Harvey head besides your own and why?

"God, they’re all so cool and unique. Steve Chanks’s was great, as was Patrick McQuade’s, Rick Parker’s Brent Engstrom’s, Cojo & his Dad’s, Sean Pryor’s, but the winner for me is Rick Veitch’s – but my guess is Harvey has no idea who Darkseid is – hahaha"

Anything else Pekar or Harvey Head-related you feel like saying?

"Yeah – lets see these in print! And call me for the Harvey hands or feet project when that comes down the pike…"

Molly Crabapple

Did it come to you right away how to approach your Harvey Head?

"For my Harvey Head, I wanted to do something that was textured and old school. I grabbed an ancient book, and started working in grey and black over the decomposing pages."

Do you have a favorite Harvey head besides your own and why?

"My favorite artist-done head is Fred Harper's, but I'm kinda’ biased. For a non-artist, Michael Malice also did a slamming job on his portrait."

Ed Piskor

What about Harvey Pekar made you say yes right away to the invitation to make a birthday Harvey Head?

"I thought it was a nice thing that they were putting together and it made sense to be a part of it too. I would have regretted not participating."

You were under some constraints with being asked to draw just a head, with maybe a little neck and shoulders, and yet all of your approaches were different. Did it come to you right away how to approach your Harvey Head?

"Time was the biggest constraint. Whenever I do something that will be seen alongside many other artists I always feel pressure to overcompensate, but I really wasn't able to labor as much as I would have liked to."

Do you have a favorite Harvey head besides your own and why?

"The Rick Veitch head is my favorite."

Anything else Pekar or Harvey Head-related you feel like saying?

"Pekar is the guy most responsible for starting me off in the comic, cartoon, and illustration biz. I wish him a happy birthday and will be grateful to this man forever."

Rick Veitch

What about Harvey Pekar made you say yes right away to the invitation to make a birthday Harvey Head?

"Having come out of the underground myself, Harvey's personal vision has been an inspiration for thirty-odd years. Celebrating an uncompromising creator who has brought such subtlety and depth to the form was a no-brainer."

Did it come to you right away how to approach your Harvey Head? was it a challenge?

"I started thinking about Harvey's face and how to caricature it and came up with his big brow as a defining feature. It seemed totally whacked to replace Darkseid's features with Harv's."

Do you have a favorite Harvey head besides your own and why?

"I love 'em all. This was a really cool project; the kind of thing that the internet really shines at."

Anything else Pekar or Harvey Head-related you feel like saying?

"I hope Harvey has one of those digital picture frames on his desk rotating his heads 24/7."

Inaki Miranda

What about Harvey Pekar made you say 'yes' right away to the invitation to make a birthday Harvey Head?

"I’ve never met Harvey Pekar in person (though I would love to), I know him only through his work and the movie American Splendor, but the essence of his life is so easily breathable that it’s really natural to feel close to him."

You were under some constraints with being asked to draw just a head, with maybe a little neck and shoulders, and yet all of your approaches were different. Did it come to you right away how to approach your Harvey Head?

"The constraints of 'just a head' weren’t really a problem, because after all a personality lives very much in a facial expression and in his particular case he’s got a very strong and recognizable one. As for my drawing, I wanted to convey what I get from reading his work, a greytone world that repels any attempt of fantasy-colorful and decorated vision. Very anti-idealistic. But at the same time it feels like without trying he ends up finding a special magic and fantasy in the dullness of life."

Do you have a favorite Harvey head besides your own and why?

"My favorite head… I can’t just pick one…out of the bunch, I’d pick these ones: Jeff Smith, Dan Goldman, Adam Roth, Ben Templesmith, Skip Williamson, Jenn Shannon, Erin Schechtman, Jeaux Janovsky, Seth Kushner and Bob Fingerman."

Kat Roberts

You were under some constraints with being asked to draw just a head, with maybe a little neck and shoulders, and yet all of your approaches were different. Did it come to you right away how to approach your Harvey Head?

"Having seen Harvey in so many different visual incarnations over the years eliminated the feeling that I had to abide by a house style. The process was comfortable and a lot of fun."

Do you have a favorite Harvey head besides your own and why?

"There are a lot of heads that are standouts for me, like Jen Ferguson, Rick Parker and Jen Shannon but my favorite is Andrew Demitt's. The hilarious, swaggerin' look on his face is like Harvey had an adult baby with Andrew Dice Clay. It's too good."

Paul Hornschemeier

What about Harvey Pekar made you say yes right away to the invitation to make a birthday Harvey Head?

"It was a little too unusual to turn down. I've met Harvey (we spoke together once at UC Riverside) and talked with him briefly while he drank citric soda and crammed brownies in his mouth...but I mainly know him through his work and his various incarnations on paper and screen. So it was an odd opportunity to draw someone I've experienced in both of those ways."

Did it come to you right away how to approach your Harvey Head? was it a challenge?

"Because of the different ways I "know" Harvey from disparate incarnations, doing some sort of virtual-multi-headed portrait came to mind immediately. If I'd had more time or could do it over again, I would have gone back through the catalogue and drawn his face in the style of different artists from over the years. But hopefully the idea comes across somewhat as I executed it."

See all of the great Harvey Heads mentioned here, and many, many more at SMITH Magazine’s Harvey Heads gallery.

4 comments:

  1. SOLID gallery of PekarHeads! Keep those jahriffic ideas coming, JahFurry!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Very cool! Harvey deserves many heads.

    ReplyDelete
  3. A fitting tribute to Harvey Pekar as well as a huge visual treat for other cartoonists and those who enjoy comic art.

    ReplyDelete