Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Made for walking

Always in such an awful hurry, was that Sam Brannan! I'm glad.

He forms the centerpiece of a logo I've helped create for a revamped walking tour through the streets of Old Sacramento.

For that matter, Brannan takes center stage in the tour because he took center stage in the original city, harnessing the greed of thousands of Gold Rush hopefuls to fulfill his own greed and establish Sacramento at the confluence of two rivers.

I depicted him in mid-stride, off to seal another deal; the Trump of his time, Brannan soon arrayed himself in the finery befitting California's first millionaire.

Brannan began his financial empire by amassing a warehouse or two or three of picks and pans and shovels, disgorging their contents at a frightful profit —$5,000 a day at his peak — to the prospectors he drew to this strange and faraway land.

Most prospectors may never have found their dreamed-of seams of gold, but Brannan certainly did, by mining the miners.

Land is how he continued to prosper, first talking his way into free land that became Sacramento City, selling plots at whatever price the feverish rush commanded, then cornering key land in San Francisco, and growing ever more ambitious after that. At one point he tried to seize Hawaii — then the Sandwich Islands — from King Kamehameha III.

Brannan anchors the parade of figures in the logo, each representing a different chapter in the hullabaloo of the early city.

I made silhouettes of all the figures for several purposes: For when they need to be printed small, and to leave some mystery for marketing purposes. Each silhouette retains a different small detail of light. Here are the "core five" in full detail:
From left to right: Lt. Gabriel Moraga of Spain, who named the Sacramento River … Capt. John Sutter, who held this land
under a Mexican grant but ultimately was ruined by the Gold Rush … Brannan … a prospector … and Lola Montez,
an exotic actress infamous in the mining towns and camps for her "spider dance."
I have created more figures, and plan to create still more, to accommodate a logo that can be modified to meet various promotional needs.

This solution came out of a pitched and losing battle to solve the problem another way.

The original concept was make Sacramento itself the gold to be found on the walking tour.

It was to be the treasure at the bottom of a placer miner's pan: Sacramento City, the gateway to the northern gold fields in the Sierra foothills.

The trouble was trying to fit the city into a gold pan. And make the pan look like the pan and not some strange sun or swirling hurricane. And forget that no panning took place in Sacramento.

It was the supply site for the mines, but never the source of gold.

Besides, a pan had become worn through as an image to represent the gold rush. In reality, the pan and the lone miner quickly gave way to small groups building larger devices to process more water and gravel in a shorter time for less cost, in search of gold ore.

Rockers and long-toms lost out in short time to aqueducts and giant canyon-carving water nozzles and quartz-stamping mills to lay waste the countryside and glean the gold. Lone miners joined and incorporated. Gold became big business.

Sacramento benefited as the gold industry grew, then survived the changeover to agriculture and other sustainable industries.

The miner in bent-brimmed hat and beard and suspenders was just as cliché and quickly inaccurate, but I had to try it out:

The background of this image carried the seed of the solution. It represents Sacramento from near the beginnings — when Lt. Gabriel Moraga of Spain gave the Sacramento River its name in 1808 — to its place as a railroad power.

It was just a bit too twee, the art director suggested.

My first effort was to play with the tour's timeline, and twist it into a letterform:

But it landed way wide of the mark: Too difficult to reproduce legibly at a small size, and what does the "S" stand for? Sacramento? Would people get it?

Time to try again.

A shoeprint held a lot of potential. It was a walking tour, after all, and the tread was a novel way to present it.

Fitting the story in the shape of a shoe, and making it cohesive and legible, proved difficult and went nowhere:

But it led to the eventual solution, to show history literally walking in sequence.

The idea appealed to all stakeholders in the project, so I set to work researching and scribbling.

Lt. Gabriel Moraga required the most guesswork, since I found few images purporting to be him, and even then it was in the best light, romantic and in dress uniform.

I gave him my best guess in the uniform he would have worn while exploring and naming the Sacramento Valley.

Lola Montez required the most drawing and redrawing, to put her in an alluring pose that didn't seem awkward in the lineup. She started out sort of like this (actually, she started out as a woman with a Rita Hayworth hair flip and a backward glance toward the approaching prospector), and eventually became this:

The dress follows an outfit I found in research. Her hair – and indeed her whole look – changed wildly in documentation.

Though her real name was Marie Dolores Eliza Rosanna Gilbert, an Irish woman, Montez cultivated this mysterious Spanish persona, and I drew her hair to evoke it.

Chalk up another project about which I'm sad to be done.
With the addition of a prosperous businessman (based loosely on railroad magnate Charles Crocker), a woman of the city and a riverboat pilot (with just a tincture of Mark Twain), I noticed that their gait had slowed compared to the first five,
as if indicating the city itself had become civilized.