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Fry Me a River: From Torch Standard to X-Rated Donut

I have worked at a local scene shop, the GNW or Great Northern Way Scene Shop, in some capacity for over a decade. Weekly staff meetings were (and presumably still are) held first thing on Monday mornings. These meetings would close with me telling a terrible Dad joke, the more groan-inducing the better. Why did the nurse carry a red crayon? In case they needed to draw blood. Why don't cannibals eat clowns? Because they taste funny.

The idea for the above image popped into my head last week for no discernible reason, and I loved it right away. It has the feeling of a Dad joke without actually being a Dad joke. I immediately associated it with the song, "Cry Me a River," an old torch song that I liked and was aware of but didn't really know anything about. Most people, these days, would probably associate it with Justin Timberlake's "Cry Me a River," but I was unaware of that version at the time.

It turns out that the song I was familiar with was sung by Julie London in the 1956 Jayne Mansfield film, "The Girl Can't Help It." For me, it pretty much defines the female torch standard, in as much as the chorus would drift through my head anytime torch singers from that era came up. I'm glad that this episode has prompted me to listen to the song in full and really appreciate it because it is definitely worth it. Written by Arthur Hamilton, the song was first recorded in 1955 by Julie London for Liberty Records. From Wiki:

"One site, Secondhand Songs, lists 484 recorded versions of the song (as at March 2020).[7] Versions that charted include:

  • Marie Knight (1969) number 35 on Billboard R&B[8]

  • Joe Cocker (live version) (1970) number 11 on Billboard [9]

  • Mari Wilson (1983) number 27 on UK Singles Chart[10]

  • Denise Welch (1995) number 23 on UK Singles Chart[10]

  • Michael Bublé (2009) number 34 on UK Singles Chart[10]"

Also from Wiki:

"London performed "Cry Me a River" in the film The Girl Can't Help It (1956), and her recording gained later attention for its use in the films Passion of Mind (2000) and V for Vendetta (2006).[8] The track was ranked number 48 in NPR's list of the 50 Greatest Jazz Vocals of all time,[66] and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2001.[67]"

Give it a listen:

Once I had the idea for the image, I immediately wanted to create it. My main motivation was that I thought it was funny (and that's my problem, not anyone else's) but also that it would be a good compositing exercise in Photoshop. I'm still getting my sea legs in Photoshop, often defaulting back to GIMP when manipulating images, and that's something I need to work on.

Of course, I wanted to use images that weren't protected by copyright, so I visited the Creative Commons and started searching. I knew I wanted the frying pan to be cast iron and with that distinctive shape, including the shallow spouts on the sides. I found a good one quickly. As I write this, I have just looked up this photo again so I could give credit and the guy who took it has the Flickr name of just "Bruce." Joined in 2009, so I guess that was early enough to get such a simple user name. I assume today it would be Bruce237 or something. But I digress.

Finding a good river shot was more time consuming. I searched "river" (too general) and "river valley" for quite a while, until I realized I had seen photos of the kind of river I had in mind many times, the Douro River. The Douro winds its way across northern Spain and Portugal, joining the sea at Porto, forming a series of river valleys that, in Portugal, are home to a thriving and revered wine industry. The meticulously groomed and smoothly rolling hills that form the valleys are about as picturesque as it's possible to be, lined with terraces of centuries-old vineyards. It didn't take me long to find what I was looking for:

There are aspects of this photo, available for commercial use for free in the Commons, that I really like and others less so. The main thing was that it would work and wasn't protected by copyright, or at least was licensed as being available for public and commercial use under a CC BY license, which only requires attribution (which I am doing right at this very moment. Thanks, Graeme!).

SIDEBAR: One thing I love about maintaining this blog is the unexpected information and whatnot that comes up tangentially to the subject matter at hand. When I find a good CC BY or Public Domain photo on Flickr, I will usually take a few minutes to scroll through that photographer's photostream on the likelihood that they will have other good quality images also available for use. If they do, I will follow them on Flickr so that I can easily find them and their work again. I think this photo of what appears to be a glazed donut in the shape of a male member and testicles definitely qualifies as a whatnot. Graeme Churchard simply names the photo "Duoro Valley-16" and posts it without comment. What I find interesting beyond the shape is the presentation, nestled alone in artfully folded fabrics, suggesting a display. Whoever made that donut was really proud of it.

Back to the subject at hand, and no, that was not a Dad joke. Because I am deeply enamoured with the effect of combining the Mean Curvature Blend filter with the Cartoon filter in GIMP, I decided to use that style for both elements, doing so independently and then combining the two. Here's the Douro photo without the frying pan done in that style:

There's something about the blended roundness combined with the black line that really works for me. In a way, it's ironic that I discovered this style after being laid off from the GNW scene shop, because I think rendering images in this style would be really helpful when painting backdrops from a photograph.

Here's my final version, with text, and a light sky blue background chosen arbitrarily:

Once the compositing image was finished, I turned it into a PNG so that the bottom text would float. I also faded the sky so that the image achieved 100% transparency at the top border. There are some unpredictable issues with Redbubble and this fade (compare any of the shirts with the magnet, and you will see that the shirts truncate the fade fairly dramatically), which require further investigation. Unfortunately, I will never be sure if this is just a virtual preview problem or also a printing problem without actually ordering examples and looking at them IRL. I will have to do that at some point, because fades are an important design tool.

Next, I uploaded the PNG to Redbubble and did all the things you do when uploading a new design - title it, tags, description, and then fine tuning size and placement on all the product options they offer. Often, this includes deciding which products the design is not suitable for and making those products unavailable. For example, I chose not to put this design on socks because the available space has a ratio that is too skinny to work well.

The last step is to post about the design and associated merch on social media, which in my case means Instagram and Facebook. I still resist Twitter, and I hope it remains ever thus.

So, there you go. Soup to, as they say, nuts. Again, Dad joke not intended.

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