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Mr. Peanut

February 3, 2011

Due to a series of unfortunate events this is the first post for the new year. 2011 began for me with an abscess tooth which ultimately had to be pulled. Surprisingly this was NOT the tooth that broke the week before Christmas so I had 2 to take care of on opposite sides of my mouth. For this reason I ended up taking a break from my artwork for a few weeks but now that I’m feeling better my creativity is returning. I am beginning the year with a pair of portraits that may be the most curious I’ve done so far. They are portraits of one of my favorite subjects: Mr. Peanut. My long fascination with him began when I was a little girl and my Father took my Sister and Me to Atlantic City for the day. It was a big event for us and a sort of family tradition as he had also taken my Brother when he was a kid. This was back in the early 1960’s when Atlantic City was a real amusement park like Coney Island. I remember that  at Steel Pier we went down under the water in the Diving Bell, posed for old fashioned photos as old west sheriffs with my Father behind bars as the prisoner and watched a woman dive off the pier on a horse. It was a magical day but the most memorable part was meeting Mr. Peanut for the first time. I admit to being a bit terrified of him back then. You have to imaging being a 5 or 6 year old child seeing this gigantic peanut with dark, un-seeing eyes lumbering toward you on spindly black legs. He was silently menacing with a sort of black screen over the monacle and eye hole. In those days the Mr. Peanut people didn’t talk to you, they just bobbed their giant peanut bodies up and down in a gesture of greeting. Since then I have have not only come to terms with my fear but actually embraced Mr. Peanut as a nostalgic representative of my childhood. I have a Mr. Peanut mechanical pencil that I love drawing with (except that I cannot find lead to fit it any more), I have a set of Mr. Peanut salt and pepper shakers and even bought a silver ashtray in a curio shop in Amsterdam. The shop owner had originally purchased it in Brooklyn and brought it back to Amsterdam where I bought it and brought it right back to New York!

As you can see he has been on my mind for a number of years but I was never sure how I wanted to portray him. For this pair of portraits I felt it was important to portray the Mr. Peanut that I best remember which is as the actual costume.  There have been several versions over the years but after much research I’ve found the type that I believe was used in the early 1960’s.  I thought it would also be interesting to put a skyline of Atlantic City in it’s hey day in the background and some striped bunting to lighten it up and make him seem less frightening. I’ve only gotten the sepia underpainting on the first portrait finished so far and I like it so much I am considering not putting in color at all. We’ll see..

One Comment leave one →
  1. SRN permalink
    June 28, 2011 3:31 am

    “I have a Mr. Peanut mechanical pencil that I love drawing with (except that I cannot find lead to fit it any more)….”

    I’ve been using a Mr Peanut pencil as my basic sketchbook tool since I was a freshman fine art student in the early 1970s. I’ve never found a pencil as perfectly balanced or weighted, and it remains, still, my favorite all-purpose drawing tool.

    As to leads, the diameter is the 1.1mm (.046″) — which used to be the standard gauge for drugstore counter/school supply mechanical pencils. A Google or Ebay search with keywords “1.1mm lead refills” should give you several usable hits.

    I get mine from an outfit called “Autopoint”, which sells them in small tubes of a dozen short-lenght leads (perfectly sized for the Mr P) in grades B and HB.

    You might remember the old Scripto mechanical pencils — They were a pervasive elementary school accoutrement through the 60s, 70s, and 80s, sporting a transparent colored barrel within which you could see the screw-feed mechanism — They also used 1.1mm lead, sold in 4 inch lengths, grades HB and H. Refills can still be found online with a Google or Ebay search. As of a year ago, I there was also at least one Scripto pencil enthusiast who was selling refill leads from his website in, I believe, a 2H to B range. Tubes of 4 inch Scripto refills tend to be pricey however.

    You might also try the drafting department of a good art supply store (the kind that still sell drafting table drawing tools like T-Squares and compasses; not just books on CAD and Photoshop) — During the summer of 2010 I saw 1.1 leads from Pentel or some similar large company. I’m not certain, but I believe they were offered up to B, perhaps 2B softness.

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