Saturday 22 August 2009

idle daydream: I took Monty out for his walk and remembered this time to take a plastic bag to pick up his poo. You'd have thought humans would have organized this better by now. It should be the other way around. In a perfect world WE would have animals to perform that service for US. Imagine having your own little army of dung beetles that would muster every time you go out to take the air.

in the meantime, I just found this promo video for Graham Rawle's recent book: "Graham Rawle's pictures capture perfectly the innocence, the magic and the dream-like surrealism of this truly wonderful story."-Raymond Briggs

(I previously wrote about Rawle here)


Friday 21 August 2009

i'm working on a painted cover for a book reprinting a couple of long continuities from an old 60's/'70s daily strip. It was another era, I'm thinking to myself, while simultaneously trying to finish a long post on certain peculiarities of my own era in my medium of choice. But I just can't make it come to an uplifting conclusion, so let's grab a couple of news items and procrastinate. The first is just in from my pal Mick Evans:

Shaun Tan's a winner with weird tales from the suburbs
A WRITER-ILLUSTRATOR whose books demolish both genre and age distinctions has received the highest honour from the Children's Book Council of Australia.
Shaun Tan's Tales from Outer Suburbia was named Book of the Year for Older Readers at a ceremony yesterday at Sea World on Queensland's Gold Coast.
Interestingly the report is written by a person who seemed to evince a disdain for both the medium of comics and Shaun Tan a couple of years back. (update: Mick adds that he is on page 5 of the actual newspaper rather than hidden in the Arts section).
In other news:
Woman sues zoo over splashing dolphins
Officials "recklessly and willfully trained and encouraged the dolphins to throw water at the spectators in the stands, making the floor wet and slippery," but failed to post warning signs or lay down protective mats or strips, the suit said, according to the reports.


Thursday 20 August 2009

invisible man. I've only just heard about Liu Bolin.

LIU BOLIN is a young beijing based artist who has exhibited primarily in china until last year’s solo show at Paris’ Galerie Bertin Toublanc and a group show with the gallery in Miami. he recently finished up a show at Eli Klein Fine Art in New York showcasing a variety of his pieces including some form the series ‘Camoflague’. This series is an exploration of human nature and animal instincts which features Chinese citizens painted to blend into their surroundings. The subjects are covered head to toe in paint, camouflaging themselves in front of the Chinese flag, a billboard or downtown Beijing.

"One hundred years ago, each Chinese man had a long plait behind his back. At that time, this was normal. If a man had no plait or cut it short, it was a symbol of his innovative ideas. But now, the plait behind the back previously was the the hallmark of artists, recently becomes the patent of the hairdressers in hair salon, all of who would be disparaged by the majority people with short hair. Long hair and plait themselves are meaningless. Their meaning depends on the outside environment. Human beings are born in society, so our thinkings are fixed by traditional culture. Human beings are so miserable that even their thinkings are copied unconsciously to the next generation.
The mental enthrallment is more terrible than the physical disappearance."

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Wednesday 19 August 2009

i have just finished working my way through all five seasons of the utterly marvellous Boston Legal, and something has now gone out of my life because there will never be a new episode to sit down to in the evening. I think it may very well be my favourite tv show of all time. My Talisker that Hayley Campbell sent has also run out coincidentally at the same time. I have nothing to say here today.

Let me just clear out my drafts folder:

For another, it teaches us that, in writing such a self-conscious book, one must constantly make sure that the novel is leading us toward something beyond its own artifice.

In other news:
LONDON (Reuters) – Visitors to London always have to be on the look out for pickpockets, but now there's another, more positive phenomenon on the loose -- putpockets.
Aware that people are suffering in the economic crisis, 20 former pickpockets have turned over a new leaf and are now trawling London's tourist sites slipping money back into unsuspecting pockets.
Anything from 5 pounds to 20 pound notes is being surreptitiously deposited in unguarded pockets or open handbags in Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden and other busy spots.

There's even a little picture in this here drafts folder. I can no longer remember what i intended to do with it or even whether I've already posted it.

Which reminds me, I noticed recently there's now a band named The Eyeball Kid. I bet mine goes back before any of them were born.
Eyeball Kid is a powerhouse teen band that just won the 14th annual WBCN-Berklee College of Music Battle of the High School Bands competition, beating 100 others for the prize.(24 April 2008)

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Tuesday 18 August 2009

paul Gravett recently posted an appreciation of cartoonist Bob Lubbers that he wrote in 2003, with a nice selection of illustrations from the late '40s.
So much for Warhol’s ‘fifteen minutes of fame’. Comic characters may be world famous and seemingly immortal, but their creators, when not made anonymous, have gone virtually unknown to the public. Within this despised, or at best underappreciated medium, thankfully some of the masters, and a few of the mistresses, of comic art have found a measure recognition while they’ve been still been around to bask in the glow. But others have had to wait for their posthumous epitaph and obituary as almost their only praise for their achievements. Even a lifetime of fame can be erased after death, once tastes change and memories fade, until hopefully some enthusiast rediscovers and restores their reputation.
Bob Lubbers is not the celebrated cartoonist he should be, but thanks to a legion of Italian admirers, he is now getting his day in the sunshine in his 80th year.
Bob Lubbers in his maturity was always attached to titles that either belonged to someone else or had a very short life. Long Sam is perhaps his best thing. It ran from 1954 to 1962. Here's a very early page from 1954 from my own collection (photographed with a hand held camera, so it's not in perfect focus. sorry):

Later ones lack the pizazz that Long Sam had at the beginning. here's one from 1959:

Fom 1962 to 1967 Lubbers drew Secret Agent X-9 under the pseudonym 'Bob Lewis,' for reasons unknown to me. WWW.ART4COMICS.COM (there's an individual behind this, but I can't find his name) has a gallery Of Lubber's Secret Agent X-9 daily strips from the early '60s (before Al Williamson took it over and changed the title to Secret Agent Corrigan). He continued it in the craftint technique used by his predecessor Mel Graff,

who picked it up from Roy Crane way back in the day,

but he had his own very delicate way with the stuff (allowing for my zooming in close on the previous two for the purpose of showing what Craftint does exactly):

After which point Lubbers became an anonymous art-ghost for Al Capp on L'il Abner.


Monday 17 August 2009

there's been a recurring theme here since I reviewed the Watchmen movie on 30 July. The jist of my argument is that a good book is not just 'about' the contents of its plot. Andrew Rilstone has written the finest analysis of Watchmen that i have so far read.
In our world, kids read comics about superheroes and wish that they were real. In the world of the watchmen, supeheroes are real, so kids read about pirates instead. Hollis Mason described the emergence of superheroes as being like characters escaping from comics and coming to life. The idea of superman was so powerful that it caused real superheroes to come into being. In order to create his squid monster, Ozymandias kidnaps the man who wrote the most frightening comic of all time, gets him to imagine the most frightening monster possible, and persuades everyone on earth to believe it is real. Like Hooded Justice, the squid has escaped from comics- from the realm of ideas- into the black and white factual world of newspaper headlines
Watchmen is about the power of stories, of ideas, of comic books. Bernard, the comic book reader is its hero. He has in his hands the grand key to the whole story, and he couldn't care less. in the middle of this great insane complicated game the comic book fan is the voice which debunks the whole exercise.
"Lotta people called Bernard, man. Don't signify nothing."
(thanks to Greg Gerrand for sending the link)

In other news:
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – An American widow is selling her husband's burial spot directly above film legend Marilyn Monroe so that she can pay off her mortgage.
Elsie Poncher has put an advert on eBay to auction off the tomb in Westwood Village Memorial Park, Los Angeles.
"Here is a once in a lifetime and into eternity opportunity to spend your eternal days directly above Marilyn Monroe," says the advertisement.
"In fact the person occupying the address right now is looking face down on her."

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something my fellow artist Seth said in the recent Interview at the daily Crosshatch:
Do you envision your books cinematically, when you’re working on them? Do you think like that?
Not generally. Some of my stuff is cinematic in the way the “camera”—if you want to call it that—follows the characters around. I call that naturalistic storytelling. Of course I don’t really think of it as a camera. I actually envision it as the reader following the character around, as if you’re a disembodied head. In Clyde Fans, you’re following the character walking through the house. I think of that as how you experience the world through your eyes. Above shots, close-ups etc. They are film terms but I think of them as simply techniques to mirror how we experience vision. Film, being the more popular, has created the vocabulary to label these things but they are not purely actions of a camera. It’s more about vision in general.
I thought it could be interesting to run a test on this idea that 'cinematic' is a term that describes an effect that illustrators may have arrived at by other means without the help of film. I've delved back to 1892 and a series of front covers from the weekly Illustrated Police News of London. The paper was a single sheet, I believe, folded, with the typeset stories inside, all luridly wrapped in wood-engraved drawings representing the news items. It looked every bit as horrible as the worst sorts of comic books. It predates both comics and moving film, and also photojournalism.

The story of Frederick Deeming sated the British public's appetite for gruesomeness on at least a dozen consecutive covers of this paper (called 'the worst newspaper in England only six years earlier, see notes below). Deeming was even suggested as a candidate for the still unidentified Jack the Ripper for a while, which is why I have this stuff in my files. He had already been arrested for the murder of his wife in Australia when the earlier murders of his previous wife and family in Rainhill near Liverpool in England were uncovered. The Police News reconstructs it. As per the narrative technique that Seth describes, the artist recreates the scene by following the villain around his house as he dispatches the members of his family. (apologies to Seth for mentioning him in the same paragraph as this awful stuff)
April 23 1892

In the cover from a fortnight later the story gets a spot in the tier along the bottom. Of technical interest on this page is the fact that the artist combines landscape images in an arrangement with portraits, creating the effect of photos or drawings spread on the table in front of us. In the upper tier he has some dramatic juxtapositions. My point is that the jarring variations in scale caused by 'cutting' from close to long is not an effect that owes everything to film.
May 7 1892

Advancing a couple of weeks again (there are a dozen relevant covers in this narrative series, from which I'm selecting four), to the depiction of Deeming's execution. To put the effect over, the artist has been given a full page, another effect that we associate with the comic books (as in 'splash page'.) Notice also how the perspective positions the viewer among the immediate witnesses of the event.
May 28 1892

The following week they were pressing the last drop out of the story and we see Deeming's final troubled sleep, with the narrative of his crimes played out in an imaginary smoke in the pictorial space above him, which comes pretty close to being a big damn thought balloon.
June 4 1892

To say that the earliest adventure comics, such as the example below, lack dynamism because they were waiting for somebody to come along and introduce techniques analogous to those of the cinema is problematic.

The techniques were already in circulation. They were, in Seth's words, 'More about vision in general', or simply basic typographical procedures, ways of arranging printed matter on the page for sensational effect, to put the viewer close to the action, or in among it, rather than watching it acted out on a stage. They were the techniques of the lowest kind of illustrated journalism. Scholarly blogger John Adcock recently posted the excavated text of an old article concerning the Police News:

“THE WORST NEWSPAPER IN ENGLAND” an Interview with the Proprietor of the “POLICE NEWS.” Pall Mall Gazette 23 Nov 1886.
On perceiving that the readers of the Pall Mall Gazette who express their opinions on current topics through the medium of our Prize Puzzle Column had voted the Police News to be the “worst English newspaper,” one of our representatives betook himself to the office of the journal which has required so unique a distinction, in order to learn something as to its character, career, and circulation, and to discover what points its conductors could plead in defence of the publication. He was without delay introduced to the proprietor, Mr. George Purkess, who received the “verdict of the jury” with great good temper, not to say complacency, readily answered when put to the question, and urbanely volunteered much interesting information as to the history and position of his illustrated weekly calendar of crimes, casualties, and curious incidents...
--"If a tragedy were to occur in London to-day, we would send an artist straightway to the scene; should a terrible murder or extraordinary incident be reported from the country, we would at once dispatch a telegram to one of the artists whose names are in the book I have shown to you, or, if we are not acquainted with an artist in the locality, we would advise a newsagent to instruct one on our behalf. Often artists will send up sketches without previous communication of any kind; sometimes they will warn us by telegram to expect a sketch. The artist of course always endeavours to get a view of the scene of the tragedy, outrage, suicide, or accident, and we always give a picture of the house in which the inquest is held; but naturally, in sketches of this kind, from the very character of the incident, the imagination must be given some freedom. Our artists always try to obtain portraits of the actors in the scenes which they depict, but when these cannot be had they are driven to work upon verbal or written descriptions of the persons portrayed. If people would only think of it, they would instantly perceive that the accuracy of our illustrations is one of the secrets of our success. " (a great deal more at the link)

footnote: there are many lazy and confusing pictorial ideas that comic book artists have certainly inherited from cinema, but that is a separate article.

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Sunday 16 August 2009

i'm reading the big Taschen book on the great pin-up artist Gil Elvgren that was one of their 25th anniversary editions last year.
"...he had a studio apprentice named Bobby Toombs, who went on to become a recognized artist in his own right... He said that Elvgren not only taught him the handling of paints and various shortcuts that would help when working to deadlines, but also showed him how to approach a given assignment in a properly thoughtful manner. Toombs said, "Naturally the color values were a major part of the learning process, but with Gil Elvgren by your side, you felt as if you could do anything. He would pick up a brush and make it dance all over the canvas. it was like magic watching him paint, back in those good old days."
I like the way in his paintings there is usually some little unexpected bend in the flesh that shows he was looking closely at a live model, the kind of thing you can't invent or fake. Here's a great Great page of Elvgren model ref photos.

I'm always amused to be reminded how the publisher of a notably comprehensive series of artist monographs on one hand and 'The second most expensive book in publishing history' on the other, started out:
"TASCHEN'S Great Adventure began back in 1980 when eighteen-year-old opened a shop in his native Cologne, Germany, to market his massive comics collection. Within a year he bagan publishing catalogues promoting his wares, but it wasn't until 1984 that his first art-book breakthrough occurred; he purchased 40,000 remainder copies of a Magritte book printed in English, reselling them for a fraction of their original price... Twenty five years after he opened his little comics shop, Taschen has grown into one of the most successful and unique publishers in the global market, publishing an eclectic variety of books for people of all tastes and budget ranges, distributed worldwide in over twenty languages."