Bob, Synths, and Artistry
We are proud to release a new art t-shirt, Moogsaic, designed by illustrator and animator David C. Lovelace, likely known to some of you for his long-running synth-centric cartoon, The Packrat. David has created a stunning image of Bob Moog that is at once compelling, intriguing, and a bit haunting. He brought Bob alive by meticulously hand-drawing over 250 synthesizers, modules, and sonic components, gracefully placed to create a striking likeness and a familiar gaze.
You can purchase the Moogsaic t-shirt here.
Read about Dave’s artistic journey below…
My Path to Moogsaic
Herewith describes the incentives and processes to create something truly special and memorable for my first shirt design of a planned five hundred designs for the Bob Moog Foundation over the next century, which files mental rank with a secondary goal of getting better at actually following through with big, dumb plans.
Soon after my new professional association with the Moogstress herself (Michelle Moog-Koussa, the Foundation’s executive director) began, I became enthralled and truly inspired by her commission of the “Circuits of My Mind” poster. This image, created in 1977 by Jean-François Podevin, is a twisting maelstrom of intricate details, and it generously fed my desire to attempt something perhaps equally as challenging to design. Now, I am more of a cartoonist than a classic illustrator like Podevin. Even my paintings are just a pseudo-classy (technically, the applicable term here is “klassy”) way of displaying my comic art. So I had to figure out a compelling way to “go for it” with my theoretical design concept, without straying too far from my relatively limited bailiwick.
Podevan’s “Circuits” poster is replete with detailed drawings of electronic instruments and wires, all geometrically encapsulating Bob’s profile portrait. While dwelling on its interconnected nooks and crannies, I wondered if there was a way to create another portrait out of synthesizers and modules, but perhaps in a way evocative of Dali’s Lincoln painting. I was not prepared to presume it would contain even a fraction of the ambition to create an actual scene that looked one way close up (Gaia’s nude form gazing out a strangely shaped window at a seascape beyond) and another when viewed farther away (Lincoln’s portrait). But I was convinced I could at least fabricate a portrait from a scattering of gear and wires, so I set out on a journey that took about fifty hours, three months, and five versions to complete.
First, I quickly drew basic rectangular shapes in a Photoshop layer over a good black and white portrait of Bob, zoomed in on each shape, and flood-filled them one by one with the closest gray value of the photograph layered underneath. I do not know why I chose an overall forty-five-degree angle for the forehead; call it diagonal thinking! This so-called “Version Zero” is the closest thing in the process that you could call a “sketch,” and the final result can easily be traced back all the way to this rudiment.
Versions One and Two
The first completed version, an attempt at a line drawing, would have been inexpensive to replicate on fabric, since it would be a one-color process (black ink on a white shirt), so I decided to give that my best try. I thought, hoped, and eventually prayed that I could simply re-create the greyscale effect of Version Zero by making the darker shapes into things like black modules with a spartan array of white knobs, while lighter shapes were less-detailed boxes or keyboards. Unfortunately, the result offered not quite enough variance that was needed to keep Bob’s portrait from looking too, shall we say, “swarthy.” It was recognizable as Bob’s face around the eyes, but most other areas were obscured. Even while squinting, the resultant visage was just too damned dark.
As you can imagine by the detail, I was already a solid twenty hours or so into this design, which already tripled the amount of time Michelle was hoping would be required of me! I spent a few more hours on a second version, where I removed a lot of detail from what should have been lighter bits and bobs (ok, fine, pun intended), and darkening more around the eyes and mouth, but it was to no avail; Version Two was nearly indistinguishable from the first.
Discouraged, the project was shelved for a few weeks while its incompletion hung over me like a cloud. Michelle would gently remind me that it would be best done sooner rather than later, but it took me a while to grapple with the idea that I might simply have to start over. It was like admitting your true love wasn’t who you thought her to be! It was a terrible struggle. Even an expenditure of only twenty hours of working on artwork (even relatively cartoony artwork) can feel like a very personal, emotional year to me. But I professionally and artistically committed to this conceptual plunge, so I tried one last time to salvage the message by sacrificing the economy. I decided that there was no way to keep this artwork black and white, so I spent a half day or so trying to convert the existing line art into a grayscale version.
Version Three took it closer, but I gave up on it before too long. I was starting to lose clarity everywhere but the eyes. The suit was no longer even a suit; it had become twin piles of synth porridge. I admitted the unavoidable demise of this particular tack.
While sitting at my desk and staring into infinity, what would become the new concept crept humbly into my mind: use the same solid, grayscale shapes that worked fairly well in Version Zero, but with erased-line details to minimize impact on the overall tone of each shape. I thus set forth on another twenty-hour journey for Version Four. It was like pulling teeth, and the process of drawing it stretched out well over another five or six weeks. I would just pick at it slowly, usually while muttering to myself. But soon I started to really see Dr. Bob peering back at me through the new art, and he began muttering to me instead, telling me to keep going, keep drawing, and never give up on this, or frankly any, artistic quest worth believing in.
Hey, Bob. Good to see you. Took you long enough.
At first I colored all the cables light gray, but then I figured since it was going to have to be a full-color digital screen anyway, why not alternate red, green, and blue for them? They’d all optically add up to gray anyway, right? OK, fine, they add up to white, but only as pixels… ink pigments on a shirt more closely add up to a shade of brown. But maybe Bob would’ve preferred the brown hair anyway!
By now, I was prepared to see what Michelle thought, and got the file ready to send along to the patient Moogstress. I peered one last time at the greyscale image while Bob peered back critically, and I wondered if there wasn’t something I could do to give him some real color without having to spend another month figuring out a color portrait (which would’ve been impossible anyway; the original image was black and white, so I had no reference for color sampling). But in short order, with one last experimental skip back to Photoshop, I arrived at Version Five.
A radial-fill mask, blended at half opacity over the grayscale gadgets, was situated to keep the warmer tones on the face and the cooler tones on the suit, and added some satisfying depth. Better artists could have done better work, but I was ready to stop torturing myself and admit that I have taken this portrait’s development as far down the road as my skill set would allow.
The more I lock eyes with Moogsaic, the more I can honestly say I am happy with the result, which is lately an infrequent outcome. I hope the wearers of this shirt enjoy it forever, or at least longer than fifty hours. And I also hope it in some way reminds them that there will always be artists like Bob, myself, and themselves all staring into infinity together, searching for the best path to the best results.