Rob Dunlavey
March 2006
Happy Birthday Vincent Van Gogh!
March 30:
Vincent Van Gogh & Francisco de Goya y Lucientes
I’m reading a book on Van Gogh’s drawings. I don’t have the luxury to get into it today. Van Gogh’s a bit of a straddler: one foot was the perpetual awkward student, the other foot so assured and clear in intent. As an artist, you have to dig deep and decode to make any sense of Vincent Van Gogh. The rewards are worth it though.
Good Blog!
Robert Ullman's Atom Bomb Bikini blog is a good place to spend some time. In it (lately) he chronicles is disaffection with Entertainment Weekly --for good reason. The comments are even more illuminating: They shed light on how some of our ilk react to the rough and tumble of the current climate of editorial.
Bon gusto!
A tyranny of sketchbooks
"The Thinker" circa 1998
About ten years ago, my sketchbooks took over and became the focus of my creative life. It coincided with that other tyranny of creative life: very young children; but that's another story. Like alien spores germinating, I would find myself at 5:00 am (earlier nowadays), monk-like with a cup of coffee, slinking off to some quiet corner of the house. With a Bic pen I would write the date in a box in the upper left corner of the page…

• The stack of books is growing and…
• Paying work has exhibited troubling concerns of late…
What will become of me?

Stay tuned.
This was done yesterday. Simple but pretty much fun.
I picked up this old and resistant sketchbook. It's a spiral-bound deck of Canson colored papers (probably intended for scrapbookers). Anyway, I've been really resisting working in it and I'm trying to figure out why. I'll know soon.

Sometimes self-imposed "problems" need to cook a while before they yield to the familiar impulses that propel lines across a sheet of paper. I have to "soften" the prisoner up before he'll talk.
Ub Iwerks: March 24, 1901
Love the name! …and that was way before Steve Jobs and Apple Computer started adding "i" in front of everything! But seriously, we view Iwerks as the magical devil responsible for the initial Disney style way back in 1920's Kansas City. He was Employee #1. Iwerks's DNA is in Mickey Mouse. He was an insanely good animator who is legendary today for his speed and draftsmanship. His influence continues strongly today as artists are inspired by early, hand-drawn forms of animation that seem fresh, innocent, and irreverent.
Cecil Collins: March 23, 1908
Collins was a visionary British artist who some see an an heir to William Blake. His paintings and prints are filled with Christian symbols that represent the various battlegrounds between good and evil, light and dark. I think these works are small and relatively unassuming in scale. However, they are complete and in them, Cecil Collins has created his own world that eventually, we have to enter on his terms. I'm reminded of other near contemporaries: the poet Christopher Smart and the composer Benjamin Britten. Samuel Palmer would fit in here too. There's this whole strain of thought in these artists that to me seems clearly British and it displays a concern for nothing less than our souls in intimate and awesome scale.
William Morris: March 24, 1834
I really need to study Morris more because I like his total design aesthetic. Various factors influenced the development of Morris's style and he was a creature of his time. He applied his ideas to type and book design, wallpaper and textiles, furniture, stained glass, terra cotta and he was a tireless visionary promoter of the Arts and Crafts movement. Without turning the clock back too much, artists today can easily exert similar control of their total work. Font design, illustration, prepress and instant publishing via the web or pdf are all accessible disciplines on our desktops. The overarching concern however is whether we craftspeople of today and tomorrow can speak with a loud and consistant enough voice to claim our creative birthright in an increasingly ephemeral, superficial, and frightened world.
Juan Gris: March 23, 1887
You've heard the phrase: "Gonna rock your world!". It's kind of stupid and I'm sorry to associate it with Gris. Yet, without Juan Gris, the movement known as Cubism would not have been so influential. His training in the sciences and architecture gave him the discipline and humanistic worldview to create Cubist works of great visual (if not intellectual) interest. Many illustrators who work in a semi-abstract idiom think they have Picasso to thank. They should instead thank Juan Gris.
Randolph Caldecott: March 22, 1846
We owe Randolph Caldecott nothing less than our current concept of the children's picture book: "Caldecott created a new kind of picture book for children. A single story stimulated many associations, ideas that Caldecott set down on the page as they came to him in a series of spontaneous lightning sketches. He enlarged the story by interpreting the words with his pictures. The illustrations fill in what the words leave out, and the words fill in what the pictures leave out -both closely interwoven, each enhanced by the other." [source]
"Caldecott's drawings have the appearance of spontaneity and movement. His work was humorous but never malicious. Possessing vitality and humor, his books have endured to capture contemporary audiences. Since 1938, the American Library Association annually has awarded the Caldecott Medal in his honor for "most distinguished American picture book for children in the United States published during the preceding year." [source]
I find it interesting that Randolph Caldecott died just before he reached 40 years in St. Augustine, Florida. He is just so Victorian English for me. By this time he was internationally famous, was married (no children) and had retired to a country home. The Caldecotts frequently traveled abroad because of his fragile health.
Promises, Promises!
I am clean shaven now!
I do hereby promise and faithfully swear to add content to this here blog as often as I possibly can.
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