Friday, October 06, 2006


This week's Illustration Friday topic has inspired me to re-photograph a couple of paintings that are several years old. (Even at 8:00 am on a murky morning I got better results than the originals.) These are from a series of paintings based on hobo signs that I started but never completed, in spite of good intentions. Of the four paintings these are the two that communicate 'trouble.' They are only 11" x 14".

Between the 1880s and World War II, North American hoboes rode the rails, lived off the land and the charity of others, worked where and when they wanted, and went in whichever direction the wind blew. This subculture of wanderers communicated with each other through a system of simple markings, usually made with chalk or coal, on buildings, trestles, bridge abutments, fences, posts, and railroad equipment. The information usually consisted of warnings or places to get work, food or a bed. Hoboes also used their own vocabulary of slang terms, many of which have entered the common lexicon.

The top painting is called Danger, after the patterned background of markings. The other markings are a triangle with arms which means 'man with gun,' an enclosed squiggle under it which means 'bad-tempered owner,' and a four-footed symbol repeated twice which stands for 'bad dog.'

This one is called Hold Your Tongue, again after the symbol repeated in the sky. The double circle means 'hoboes arrested on sight,' the double diamonds mean 'be quiet,' and the large yellow symbols stand for 'be ready to defend yourself.' More symbols found here.

And finally, Within Without has just posted the video for Peter Gabriel's Don't Give Up, the perfect musical illustration for the theme of trouble. (He's also written a great Thanksgiving post for this holiday weekend.)


Blogger carla said...

Hah! First! It's fascinaing to see your older work and thus see the wonderful evolution of your style. I have always ben intriqued by the whole hobo subculture, and i just love that you've examined this in your paintings. I wonder what they would look like if you attempted to reinterpret them now...perhaps a wonder "small art" series?
I think "trouble" for me is going to be finding the time to do something this week and post it... life has been majorly getting in the way lately:>
Have a wonderful holiday!

6/10/06 9:33 a.m.  
Blogger carla said...

...wonderful "small art" series, that is

6/10/06 9:34 a.m.  
Blogger Cherrypie said...

I didn't know anything about that. It's really interesting.

And now I shall go and find something suitably Thanksgiving like to cook in honour of your celebrations.

6/10/06 2:00 p.m.  
Anonymous Detlef said...

Andrea, I prefer the bottom one.....a grunge feel that has some resonance for me.

6/10/06 3:08 p.m.  
Blogger Digital Scott's illustrationblog said...

Both pieces are nice. My favorite is the top one, if has a nice composition to it.

6/10/06 4:22 p.m.  
Blogger Within Without said...

Well thanks for that unsolicited plug, Andrea. The cheque's in the mail.

First, what a brilliant, fascinating subject. Who'd a known hoboes would have their own language of symbols, but once explained, it makes perfect sense.

I like the bottom one for several reasons. I like the bright colours, for one. I love the way the transparent railway tracks go from foreground all the way into the distance, which to me tells of the hoboes' endless travels and infinite chance for adventure, although I'm sure for them it's more a journey of survival.

I can't make out all the words at the top, but I think that's a great element. And the buildings along the side, the train station I guess, round it all out.


6/10/06 5:06 p.m.  
Blogger camera shy said...

hold your tongue is my favorite

those pesky hobos

6/10/06 5:48 p.m.  
Blogger Toni said...

Well Happy Thanksgiving!! I'll never forget celebrating with Ginny and her family a few years ago when I stayed with her while we took a class in Pittsburgh.
She was a wonderful person and hostess.

I like the top painting more. For me it is less complicated and I suppose that is what I need in my life right now. less complications.

6/10/06 7:20 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the most interesting blogs i've come across, keep doin' the good thing :)

7/10/06 4:23 a.m.  
Blogger Michelle Lana said...

fun stuff!

7/10/06 7:14 a.m.  
Blogger kj said...

andrea, i'm putting this aside to look and read leisurely this weekend. i love that you've used the symbols.

and of major importance: how oh how could i neglect to tag you for the important songs in your life? i must have been rushing, because my friend, andrea, you are hearby tagged if you don't mind. i would love to know...


7/10/06 7:48 a.m.  
Blogger Caroline said...

Great interpretation of trouble and good to see your older pictures too.

And if you are counting votes for which is favourite - I'll go for the top one - I like its simplicity.

Oh and I'm back!

7/10/06 1:38 p.m.  
Blogger merlinprincesse said...

Your actual style is already in there! And your colours! Prefer the first one but the second one is more dramatic! :)

7/10/06 2:38 p.m.  
Blogger andrea said...

Hmmm -- I like the first better, too. Interesting to read the different opinions! And KJ -- I thought I'd snuck out of this meme but you got me! I'll have to THINK now. Argh!

7/10/06 9:26 p.m.  
Blogger Twisselman said...

Thanks for the art and the history lesson. Wonderful, both.

8/10/06 7:50 a.m.  
Blogger The Tart said...

I really like that top one!

The Tart
; )

10/10/06 11:18 a.m.  
Blogger Ellen said...

Neat work! What an awesome take on the topic!

11/10/06 9:14 a.m.  
Blogger ValGalArt said...

I didn't get a chance to visit you last week, I'm a little more busy than I like but I love this whole theme and ideas of the hobo life. Really Great, I really enjoyed this post and paintings!

13/10/06 2:02 p.m.  
Blogger Collaging-Kristen said...

Wow! I found this art and your story to us about hobos to be really fascinating! I really appreciated how much you shared and the story behind the symbols and even sharing where to find more! I'm inspired thanks! :))

15/10/06 5:16 a.m.  

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