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Pin The Ear On Vinnie: If It’s Party Time, He’s Your Gogh-To Guy

October 5, 2012

Well, enough of serious subjects like caramel apples– let’s do something frivolous… : )

Most people are marginally familiar with painter Vincent van Gogh, and the story of how he cut off part of his own ear. Is it possible to do a tasteful cartoon on this subject? Well, probably not, but I have done a sillyย cartoon on it– here it is:

cartoon done with markers and watercolor after being cleaned up and modified in Adobe Photoshop to brighten colors and smooth away grain, cartoon shows kids at birthday party playing pin the ear on painter vincent van gogh instead of traditional pin the tail on the donkey party game

‘Ear now, that’ll be enough of that, as the English police constable said… ย : P

The cartoon dates back to the early 1990s– before Photoshop, before I had a computer. But it also dates back to this week– how can that be?

My original plan was just to scan in the original (done with markers and watercolors), and post it as an example of what my work looked like 20 years ago. Kind of a see, you-do-get-better-if-you-keep-at-it kind of thing.

Then I saw how washed out the scan looked, and my vanity kicked in: I’ll just clean it up a little in Photoshop, I thought. Right. Three hours later…

Here’s the scan:

scan of cartoon done with markers and watercolor showing kids at birthday party playing pin the ear on painter vincent van gogh instead of traditional pin the tail on the donkey party game

I think we can draw at least two conclusions from all this:

1. Photoshop can make old junk more presentable, but it’s no substitute for hard work
and practice.

2. My wacky sense of humor is nothing new– it goes back a ways… : P

How accurate is my van Gogh portrait? Here’s one of his post-ear self-portraits:Vincent van Gogh self-portrait showing him with his bandaged ear after he had cut part of it off

What do you think?ย Are you a van Gogh fan? Are all artists a little mad, including
yours truly? Will Pin The Ear On van Gogh ever replace Pin The Tail On The Donkey?? Hope you’ll leave a comment.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

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Roll Over Botticelli: Venus Gets A Makeover

Hare Today, Hare Tomorrow: The Enduring Appeal Of Beatrix Potter

Honest To Gosh Singing Caricatures

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40 Comments leave one →
  1. October 5, 2012 12:07 PM

    I absolutely LOVE your take on ‘Pin the Tail on the Donkey’!

    It’s truly amazing what technology (i.e. Photoshop) can do. But it wouldn’t be anything without the artist behind it. I think it is great that you brought back an old piece of work you have done, definitely does not lack your quality humour. You can also see how your line technique is very different from what it is now. Though I will say that when you did this cartoon, I was only a baby : p

    I would love to see more of your work pre-Photoshop! : )


    • October 9, 2012 5:39 PM

      Ah, yes!– I remember thinking as I drew the original long ago: Somewhere in the U.K., there’s a baby who will really appreciate this, and she’ll grow up to be a Japanophile, collect anime, and blaze a trail thru uni as an accomplished graphic artist!! Yup, that’s what I was thinking, talk about a premonition… : P

      Thank you very much, dear Sabine. Yes, it’s amazing how one’s style evolves along the way, as if we’re all called upon to work thru various stages, en route to getting better. Good to remember that when we hit a rough patch.

      I do seem to have lots of old junk lying around– will try to work some into future posts. Thanks as ever for your cheery support!! : )


  2. October 5, 2012 3:14 PM

    You drew such a wonderful likeness with such few lines! Absolutely amazing, Mark! I just love what you did with him too! It’s so funny because when my daughter was having a baby her obstetrician’s name was Dr. Toe. At her baby shower we played Pin The Toe on Dr. Toe. With her next baby we’ll have to play Pin the Ear on Van Gogh!! LOL


    • October 9, 2012 5:45 PM

      Dr. Toe?? Wasn’t he a James Bond villain?? Pin The Toe On Dr. Toe– ha!! That’s positively fiendish, in the best possible way! Poor Doc Toe– when he flunked one of his exams at medical school, he’d have to go wee-wee-wee, all the way home, poor guy… : P

      Thanks as always, Linda, for brightening up ye olde blog with your scintillating, good-humored presence!! : )


  3. October 5, 2012 3:41 PM



    • October 9, 2012 5:49 PM

      Congratulations, sir, you’ve done it: you’ve summed up every aspect of this post in one fiendish cry… : P

      Thanks for stopping by and haunting my blog!! : )


  4. October 5, 2012 5:59 PM

    I love this post Mark! I’m a big Van Gogh fan ๐Ÿ™‚ And the cartoon gave me a little smile! It’s witty and refreshing–and yes, all artists are a bit mad (but in a good way.) They have to be!


    • October 9, 2012 5:56 PM

      Thanks, Jane! Not surprised to hear you’re a van Gogh fan. I know your taste in art is far-ranging and exquisite– I mean, why else would you come here?? : P

      Thanks, too, for your reassurance re madness. I’m going to print out your comment and present it to the little men in white coats the next time they come to take me away. “There!” I ‘ll say, “You see? I’m only fulfilling my calling!!” : )

      Thanks so much for your charming support!


  5. October 5, 2012 10:50 PM

    “Ears lookin’ at you, kid.” (Humphrey Bogart to Ingrid Bergman in “Casablanca.”) Van Gogh might have said that to his girl friend after a cutting remark.

    I happen to love Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.” But, I confess, I’m a huge fan of Monet and visited his home in Giverny years ago.

    In answer to your question, I do think that many creative geniuses are mad. That’s what spurs them on to think outside the box.


    • October 10, 2012 10:21 AM

      And in this corner, and still Queen of the Punsters… Juddddyyyy Berrrrrmaaannnnn!! Take a bow, champ!

      Monet? He had a thing for water lilies, right? Poor chap got a bit carried away… : )

      Madness as a means of thinking outside the box… I like it!! It sounds so much more respectable than “You and your crazy ideas!!” : P

      Thanks, Judy!!


      • October 10, 2012 7:21 PM

        I once had a T-shirt with gophers wearing powdered wigs. The quote: “Gopher Baroque.”
        I thought it was hysterical which gives you a teensy idea of just how warped I am. ๐Ÿ™‚


        • October 14, 2012 2:28 PM

          Ha! That’s sounds like just the kind of shirt I’d wear! It’s clear you have exquisite taste… : )


  6. October 6, 2012 10:45 PM

    I am totally a Van Gogh fan. And I’m a Mark Armstrong fan. That cartoon is too fun! You certainly do have a wonderful sense of humor. ๐Ÿ™‚


    • October 10, 2012 4:00 PM

      Wow! Now I can tell people I have something in common with Vinnie van G: the lovely Maddie Cochere digs our work!!– it just doesn’t get any better than that!

      I really appreciate your wonderful support, Maddie– thank you!! : )


  7. October 8, 2012 8:53 PM

    That’s a like for this post! I loved Van Gogh’s work when I was a child, but not keen on it any more. I do like your cartoon though – both versions. I clean up a lot of my old watercolours in Photoshop, and wish I’d known about how to do it years before!


    • October 10, 2012 4:06 PM

      Thanks, Val, always nice to get a thumbs-up from The Master… : )

      Yes, Photoshop does a great job of cleaning up old artwork– I just wish I could get it to pick up my socks and all the clutter around here… : (

      Many thanks for stopping by, my friend! : )


  8. October 9, 2012 12:28 AM

    Party time excellent! Three hours to scan and photoshop, sheesh! Glad it made it to the interwebs.


    • October 10, 2012 4:08 PM

      Sheesh is right! One of these days I’m gonna figure out what I’m doing and get efficient!! Maybe… : P

      Mighty glad you enjoyed it, and thanks a heap for that rollicking fine comment! : )


  9. October 9, 2012 9:10 AM

    This one is great! And 20 ears old!! I was laughing out loud at it haha
    I say take a Van Gogh for a left turn… ‘Take a left ear’


    • October 10, 2012 4:13 PM

      Ha! What is there about severed ears that’s like a one-way ticket to Pun City?? Zing, zing! Coupla nice ones there!

      Thanks a lot for your support, Mikk. You can’t see it, of course, but I’m waggling my ears in appreciation… : P


  10. October 11, 2012 5:56 PM

    Bit late with this one, Mark. I was wondering what you’ve been up to, and surprise, surprise; it’s have a date with an arty mate!
    I’m sure I’ll never think quite the same way about ‘Pin that there Tail on that Donkey’…
    Anyone for ‘ears’ ‘n Vincent…!?! Has a nice ring to it, I think…
    As usual, Mark, your work is brilliantly funny… you have a wonderful talent..!


    • October 14, 2012 2:37 PM

      Ah, you’re right on time, dear Carolyn, delighted to see you. Do kids still play Pin The Tail On The Donkey, I wonder?? Maybe on a computer with a big touch-screen, I suppose. Too bad. Half the fun was waiting to see which kid would wander into the bathroom and fall in the toilet. I was usually me… : (

      Thanks so much for your kind support! : )


  11. October 12, 2012 6:14 AM

    I love it and sad to say but Van Gogh Pin The Ear will never replace Place The Tail On The Donkey…Love the witt and humour you have…Excellent


    • October 14, 2012 2:54 PM

      So kind of you to drop by, Beverly, thank you! I suppose you’re right: the donkeys seem to have a lock on the children’s party game market. Human ears just don’t seem to lend themselves to recreation. Perhaps they can break in someday as drink coasters… : P

      I sincerely appreciate your kind comment, thanks so much for your support! : )


      • Artist Beverly Bishop permalink
        October 14, 2012 5:53 PM

        Mark, your welcome and I love the coaster thought…Bev


        • October 17, 2012 5:27 PM

          Ha! Thanks, Bev. And if you don’t have a coaster, you just ask somebody to lend you an ear… : )


  12. October 12, 2012 6:27 PM

    I’ve never been a Van Gogh fan but I am your fan. I loved your humorous take on this. Did you know a new study claims Vincent Van Gogh may have made up the story to protect painter Paul Gauguin who actually lopped it off with a sword during an argument? It’s a fascinating story that remains a debate among art historians.


    • October 14, 2012 3:15 PM

      Ah, many thanks, TT, it means a lot to count you as a fan. We seem to live in a world of conspiracy theories nowadays, so I guess it’s not surprising that there should be an Ear Conspiracy, too! Well, well, it was a messy business, no matter how you slice it… : P

      Many thanks for your loyal and fabulous support! : )


  13. October 17, 2012 8:19 PM

    Man, your cartoon is so funny! Honesty to God I can’t stop laughing every time I scroll up to see the picture! hahahahahahaahahahaha

    You are a clever man, Mark! Only a clever man who has a great sense of humour! ๐Ÿ˜€
    Love it, Mark. ๐Ÿ™‚


    • October 19, 2012 9:38 AM

      My dear Inge! You’ve got me laughing here, and grinning from ear to ear! And I’m happy to say both ears are still attached to my head!! : P

      So happy you enjoyed the cartoon so much, your delightful feedback has certainly made that post all worthwhile. Thanks as ever for your wonderful encouragement and support!! : )


  14. Positively Panicked permalink
    October 20, 2012 1:08 PM

    love it, this would be a great game in a classroom too!


    • October 21, 2012 2:15 PM

      Ha! Pin The Ear On Vinnie as an educational tool– I like it!! It would help prepare kids for real life… : P

      The story I heard was, Vinnie tried to dye his hair with chalk. It came out looking so horrible, he tried to cut it off, but got his ear by mistake. Dear me… : P

      Many thanks for your kind comment! : )


  15. October 22, 2012 3:30 AM

    Reblogged this on Brain4rent's Blog and commented:
    Hanging with the pumpkin artists this weekend put me into an artsy/quirky kind of mood and then I read this blog and recognized that same combo of emotions…so for you artists and sick humor lovers everywhere I share this blog.


  16. October 22, 2012 12:09 PM

    I love it Mark, you sense of humor is timeless:-) I’ll bet some hipsters will recreate this game at one of their soirees! I love that you have the ears scattered all over Mr. Van Gogh’s face as well.


    • October 24, 2012 9:44 AM

      Ha! The idea of cool hipsters playing Pin-The-Ear-On-Vinnie at a soiree made me roar with laughter!!

      I really appreciate your picking up on the “scattered ears”– I did want it to look like the game was really being played.

      I can remember playing the Donkey version at birthday parties when I was a kid. I was always the kid who pinned the tail on the wall. Either that, or wandered out of the room and fell in the toilet– always embarrassing… : (

      Thanks as always, Tracey, for your good-humored support! : )


  17. SingingTuna permalink
    April 17, 2013 3:31 PM


    This is terrific!!!!

    I heard that VanGogh removed his ear because HE heard that Mark Armstong’s version of him was better than the original.


    • April 18, 2013 8:58 AM

      Haw, haw!!

      What really happened was this: Vinnie was vacationing in Rome, and he heard some guy yell: “Friends, Romans, countrymen– lend me your ears!!”

      And, well, Vin took it literally, poor generous chap… : P

      Thank you, dear kind Tuna!! : )


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