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Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Memoirs of a bureaucrat, part 1

Prints of Whales.
I was once a bureaucrat.  I wasn't the usual sort of bureaucrat, but the sort that grey bureaucrats fear: an anarchist with surrealist overtones (or on good days, vice versa).  Because I had no career ambitions, I trod where I chose, and used outrageous methods to outflank the greys.

In particular, I worked to keep them off-balance, and what follows is s selection of the fruits of my anti-balance actions.  We had many, many committee meetings, where drones droned about the thingness of things.  A colleague and I sought ways to distract the drones, and found it in complex doodles.  Mine took the form of stippling, done with a 0.3 mm Rotring pen.  This is very fine, and stippling is commonly used in biological illustration.

I am no artist, but I am a passable draftsman, and I wanted to capture the stippling style, mainly to use in more technical drawings like this:
An 1890s marine steam engine to run a generator on a ship,
reproduced from an original woodcut in Scientific American

I worked, though, mainly in biological areas at first, and the odd joke began to appear, as you can see here on the left.

I quickly realised that the quality of photocopiers was now such that I could play tricks.  I drew the large weevil, and the smaller one came from the photocopier.

Now back to the meetings.  I began doodling textures and while I always started out trying to do a smooth and beautifully graduated spherical surface, they always seemed to degenerate into a duck with a bent beak.

So Andronicus Duck was born, a nervous duck, scared of hitting his head on low-level bridges (hence the helmet), and challenged in the floating area because he had a heavy helmet on his head.

Sometimes, what emerged was a cartoon fish with an anemone on its head: I never knew, when I started, quite where it would go.

But I knew what it would do.

Any drone, seated next to me in a meeting was, by virtue of his droneship, devoid of neurons. (This is by no means a reflection of gender bias: the few women who worked there were non-drones.)

Now when somebody is devoid of neurons, something novel going on near them acts as a strange attractor, dragging their attention away from bureaucratic bumbling as they watch to see what will emerge, so the rest of us could get the meeting through faster.

I failed to notice this at first, but my colleague had already been doing the same sort of thing, so after that, we never sat together and each of us tried to sit between two drones.  Work got done, decisions began to flow.

They don't teach that in management courses—but they should!

Anyhow, I soon got into collage, often as a way of getting an original to pencil-sketch on the drawing pad, but sometimes as an original. Here follow some of the fruits of my labours in the 1980s. Some of them never got past the preliminary sketch stage.

Sign on the dotted lion.

Knight on bear mountain (couldn't get
grizzlies to stand still, so I used koalas).
This was based on a Persian miniature.

Burning the Kendall at both ends.

The Aiming of the Shrew.

The Taming of the Screw.

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