The other night the missus and I settled in with a digital video disc entitled "The Illusionist". The entire affair was filmed in Prague and was visually quite a stunner. This is in no way meant to discount the story or acting, both of which were immensely satisfying, but I couldn't seem to shake the vision of the ornate Victorian theater.
And so the next day found me producing this image of famed escape artist ( and NOT illusionist, yes I am aware of the difference) Harry Houdini. After I completed it I pulled a shiny nickel out of my ear! It's magic!
The Illusionist, starring the incomprable Ed Norton, fellow Brooklynite Paul Giamatti, and the truly, truly lovely Jesssica Biel. Maybe not a 'must-see", but more of a "more enjoyable alternative to two hours of Alf reruns".
I've developed a recent obsession with the late Aurelius Battaglia. He was enormously prolific and equally talented yet little information is available regarding the man behind the magic.
A quick googling led me to the door of one Leif Peng and his blog, the aptly titled "Today's Inspiration". Leif is an Ontario based illustrator who, like me , reveres some of the greats of yesteryear and is loathe to see them vanish into obscurity.
Leif's pithy and informative articles are always accompanied by scans of some jaw-droppingly beautiful artworks from his own collection. His enthusiastic tributes to yesterday's art-stars are truly inspiring.
Painting from a sketch that's been tacked to my corkboard since Regan was president. This piece might give the viewer the impression that I like jazz. The sad fact is that I've been unable to foster an appreciation for it, despite multiple attempts.
Late-Onset Sentimentality is an inherited disorder; my father became quite a mush in his later years and it seems that I'm genetically predestined to follow in his footsteps.
This portait of Minneapolis rock outfit The Replacements is a good example on several levels.
First the band:
This is them in 1985. I was a Junior in High School and going through what I imagine every boy my age goes through; a maelstrom of emotional turmoil, a combustible mxture of arrogance and self-doubt, drunk on possibility. The Replacements had just made their masterpiece- a poignant album called Tim, that spoke volumes to me. It was a raucous affair, dirty and full of boozy bravado, but at it's center it was fragile and, at times, downright mournful. It was a band on the verge- they imploded after this record with a bid for commercial acceptance that didn't suit them and they collapsed under their own uncertainty. These days I listen to "Tim" and I can still smell the moldy floormats and sun-baked naugahyde upholstery of my old VW. It's atill a perfect album.
The brilliant Aurelius Battaglia
As time's gone by I find I've developed an anachronistic streak a mile wide. This is especially true in matters of aestetics, and doubly so where design and illustration for the juvenile market is concerned. I did a job last year- a rather massive job, in fact, over 30 full color illos - for a children's almanac. Somehow, I allowed myself to call to mind my Childcraft Encyclopedias from the late 1960's and I used these as a touchstone for all my work. I honestly don't know WHAT I was thinking here, but the designer didn't stop me... When I received the finished product in the mail I was appalled. Not at the garish, saturated, drop-shadowed, hysterical mishmash that I held in my hand but at my foolishness. How could I have believed the end result would have been anything else, let alone the simple and understated beauty of my beloved Childcrafts?
These drawings by Aurelius Battaglia ca 1952 say it all for me. My Replacements portrait was inspired by these; their simplicity and lyricism is at the zenith of 'children's book art' in my eyes.
I've got a big deadline breathing down my neck, so no time for any experimenting, sketching or painting - I've had my ass pretty firmly planted in front of the old computer for the past week or so.
Still, I know how you all eagerly check my blog every morning with the hopes that I'll impart some of my hard-earned wisdom, get-rich-quick schemes , or real-life tales of coming up in the 'hood, gangsta-style.
As I find myself in a bit of a crunch, that will all have to wait for later. What I offer you here is a few raves. They are as follows:
#I) Children Of Men - a motion picture that Mrs W and I saw this weekend. As realistic a piece of science fiction as I've ever seen; a believable dystopia, a plausible storyline and at it's core an amazingly touching drama. Pitch perfect acting, jaw-dropping action. A 'must-see' and I would think MUCH better on the big screen.
#2) Walton Ford at the Brooklyn Museum - see it now; it's over at the end of the month.
#3) Scott Walker performing 'Jackie' on TV - a Jacques Brel song as performed by Scott Walker.
I often find myself defending my lack of interest in art galleries and museums. I'm not particularly well acquainted with the masters of the art world and despite my best efforts to stay awake, often found myself in a black and dreamless sleep during Art History lecture.
Most of the art that I love and respond to is commercial art. A great many of my favorite artists are still alive and living in relative obscurity . Some of them include Art Seiden, Hawley Pratt, Tom Oreb, Aurelius Battaglia, Lowell Hess,Charly Harper and Moritz Kennel. It's more than likely that your average culture-vulture on museum mile will respond to this list with anything more than a blank stare. But these are, to me, awe-inspiring giants of the art universe.
Artwork by Jim Joseph
I've been concentrating on portraits lately. It's a discipline that I never put much effort toward and as a consequence have rarely been called upon to produce them.
Over the holidays I spent some time browsing through my files and books, especially some Childcraft Library Books from the late 60's that have been a longtime source of inspiration. I've referred back to them on this blog repeatedly; they are my primary jumping-off point when approaching work for the children's market. Of course, this usually provokes criticism from AD's and editors that implore me to make my work 'less retro'.
Anyhow, I love how these drawings are done in blue and black.
Art Seiden's masterful linework. He was predominantly a Children's Book illustrator and a masterful colorist as well.
Also I'd been looking extensively at Art Seiden's work letely- this drawing he did of the Rockefeller Center Xmas Tree in particular. I love the way the crowd eventually leans to the right. I shamelessly appropriated his cityscape for my Deniro portrait.
The great Lowell Hess. I think he's still alive- I heard he had Parkinson's.
Lastly was this great piece for Collier's by Lowell Hess. Almost everything that guy ever did makes my head explode, but I know very little about him.