ART AS ANODYNE FOR A YOUNG PATIENT: A Girard Anecdote



Anecdote and image shared by Carl P., 2019, and used with his permission.



Detail of  Untitled Sketch. Artist: Bill Girard. Royal Oak, MI. 1940-2011.

Bill (Girard) was a very special person indeed and also my cousin.

In 1972, as a teen fascinated with things that went boom, I suffered an accident making homemade firecrackers which nearly blew my left hand off… Multiple surgeries later the hand was salvaged…

It was summer, 1974, and I was lying in a Detroit hospital bed recovering from what I believe was my 12th surgery in a little over two years. Ironically, perhaps, it was the evening of July 4th and from my window, I could see flashes of color in the night sky that told me the annual fireworks show on the Detroit River was in full glory. There with me, alone, and not with his own family enjoying the holiday, was Bill.

Beyond that - July 4th, hospital, fireworks, Bill - other memories of that time and day have long since faded. What keeps those July 4th memories alive is a gift Bill gave me that lonely holiday evening. A pencil sketch of a dance-hall gamine, in a saucy pose, flashing a devilish grin.



Untitled Sketch. Artist: Bill Girard. Royal Oak, MI. 1940-2011.

I assume Bonnie (Ed: Girard’s wife) was the source of inspiration. Perhaps Bill was recalling his youth and his courtship with Bonnie, to raise the spirits of a teenager, lying in a hospital bed, who probably thought his chance for love was over. (Ed: Compare this image to Judy in the Stars. The hand on the hip, the bikini bottom and boldly rounded nose also appear in that painting.)

I call her Joan, because she reminds me of the character Joan Blondell played in the late '60's television show, Here Come the Brides. I've moved around the country quite a bit in the last 40 years, shedding a lot of possessions in the process. Joan however, I've always kept with me. Not always displayed, but always close.

On the left side of the image, opposite the “V” created by the crossing of Joan's arms, is Bill's fingerprint, probably his thumb. Bill drew this while entertaining me in recovery and wasn't necessarily being careful where he placed his fingers. It was a whimsical drawing for a kid. I think the imperfection is perfect.




Editor’s notes:

  1.  I received two scanned copies of the image. Perhaps because the image was protected by ant-reflective glass when scanned, the copied images seemed washed out. I used Picassa to enhance the contrast of the image used here. It appears to be dated: 72. The seven appears to have a cross-bar more common in Europe than the US.
  2.  “Joan” wears a form-fitting, sexy dress enhanced by significant cuts-outs and an intricate, winding applique. Girard shaded the area around the belly button and the bikini line. Joan’s left hand, the “active” hand appears to be plucking at the area where the bikini strap sits on her hiked right hip.
  3. Note the extreme care given to the rendering of the eyes and eye lashes.Careful organization of parallel strokes, controlled for line weight, create the illusion of reflected light on the iris of the eyes.

To learn more about that marvelous artist, Bill Girard, peruse my previous blog post, Girard? Girard Who?
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Master of Mud (aka artist) and former Center for Creative Studies (CCS), Detroit,  professor of art, Bill (William J.) Girard Jr., passed away in 2011. The website created to honor him is at https://girardsvasari.com/

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