(Click to see the many lovely contributions from a host of other artists at the Harvey Pekar Project Online at smithmag.net)
The realistic portrait I did first– sort of in the the style of Gene Day. My wife had recently coloured a portrait of Gene for her work, and it had caused a mild nostalgia in me, enough to pull out a bunch of Gene’s Batmans and Masters of Kung Fu… With all those comics in my brain Gene’s style crept into my hands as I was sketching this portrait of Harvey, which it’s never done before, but I’m clearly more of a Zelig than I wish to be. AK! GHOST OF GENE DAY!!
In the long run, I didn’t like the Gene Day-ish drawing because it’s basically just a portrait of Harvey, sketched from a photo, and really, didn’t bring anything to his unique and iconic character– beyond my skills to capture a likeness, and an odd departure for the way I usually draw (which, when I do portraits, is far more like Mort Drucker –I’ll show you guys later…).
So after an hour or so of carefully capturing Mr. Pekar’s likeness, and inking and washing it in a casual style (to disguise all the labour and erasing in doing the basic portrait), I tossed the whole thing out, and did a cartoon of Harvey out of my head in about three minutes that feels like HARVEY PEKAR to me, even if it doesn’t look as exactly like him. The madness, the beauty and the Harvey-ness of the character is more “correct” IMHO, when rendered in an expressionist and unconscious way. Somehow, making it look too much like Harvey the human being, is almost a disservice to Harvey, the beloved comic character.
And I know he’d disagree with me, which is why I LOVE the man.
Happy Birthday Harvey. You are a treasure to our medium, and it’s always a joy to share a page or a conversation with you.