Category Archives: Fine Art

What the Jon say?

Jon Fox- what is your sound?

Probably something cataclysmic and jaw-dropping.  Check out these eye-numbingly fantastic pieces.

RGB Emporers Dream -oil on canvas- 200 x 140 cm -2010Jon Fox, Emperor’s Dream, 2010

RGB Portal -oil on canvas- 200 x 140 cm -2010Jon Fox, Portal, 2010

RGB Scarecity -oil on canvas- 210 x 140 cm -2010Jon Fox, Scare City, 2010

RGB Solar Visions -oil on canvas- 120 x 80 cm -2011Jon Fox, Solar Visions, 2011

To see more of Jon’s work, visit his website at www.soulofagiant.com

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Clone Legion- Q&A with Gerhard

My first impulse was to ask really bland questions like “What inspires you?” and “Gee, how did you get so talented?” But then I changed my mind.

After all, this is Gerhard I’m talking to: a miracle worker of pen and ink. He’s created roughly 5,000 pages of meticulously-detailed backgrounds as a collaborator on the Cerebus books.  No one can render a scene like he can. And he’s open to answer any question at all.

CerebusBookOne_Gerhard_Small

CerebusChurchAndState_Gerhard_Small

CerebusFlight_Gerhard_Small

Gerhard & Dave Sim, Cerebus Tradeback Covers

So I want to know what he would do on a desert island.

Me: Imagine you’re stranded in a place where there are no people and no contact with the outside world.  What would the ideal “desert island” be, for you?

Gerhard: The location in “Cast Away” or maybe “Lost” would work just fine for me. I would prefer a deserted island rather than a desert island; not a lot of food or water in a desert. I am actually fairly close to having my own deserted island life right now. Minus the tropical weather and palm trees, of course. But I do live out in the country, away from everything, in a very small attic apartment in a century stone farm house. The main source of heat is the woodstove. The main source of wood is what is lying around the property. There’s no cable or satellite TV, no radio, and internet access is limited. If I could grow my own food, brew my own beer, ditch the phone and the computer, I would be pretty much there. Palm trees would be nice, though.

Rick's Story 228_smallRick's Story 228-02_small

Gerhard & Dave Sim, Rick’s Story, Issue 2282000

If you could make a hundred clones of yourself (ethical dilemmas aside), what would you set yourself to work on?

Hmmmm… hundreds of clones, eh? My first reaction would be to set them all to work completing all of the unfinished projects that have stalled. It would also be great to be able to hand off a drawing once I’ve done all the “fun stuff” and have my Legion of Substitute Gerhards ink all of those tiny little lines. A couple of them could cut, split and stack wood. But then I got to thinking that there are probably much better uses for the manpower. I volunteer at Pride Stables assisting with the therapeutic horseback riding programs and they can always use more help with the horses and riders, or with fundraising. There are a lot of worthwhile charities and causes that could use a couple of hundred helping hands. It’d be nice to keep one of them, though, for chores around here and to have him make me a sandwich.

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Gerhard & Dave Sim, Mothers & Daughters, Issue 186, 1994

Going Home #234_small

Gerhard & Dave Sim, Going Home, Issue 234, 2000

Imagine a dictator rises to power and begins destroying works of art.  If you had to pick a single piece of your work that would be preserved through the ages, which would it be, and why?

The single piece of my work that I would like to see be preserved through the ages hasn’t been created yet. I hope to be able to get to that before I die. Hmmm… those clones would come in handy.

World-Without-Cerebus-01-eGerhard, World Without Cerebus Series, Fallen Idol World-Without-Cerebus-03-cGerhard, World Without Cerebus Series, Collateral Damage World-Without-Cerebus-02-eGerhard, World Without Cerebus Series, Torn Asunder

For prints of Gerhard’s work and further info, visit his website at gerhardart.com

Visit his blog for updates on current projects!

Thursday? I think you mean Ukiyo-E-Day!

Kasamatsu Shiro; I would guess that you’ve never heard of him.  Until this morning, neither had I. And yet, I think I’ve never seen better Ukiyo-e (the Japanese art of woodblock printing), even from masters like Taiso and Hokusai. After some research and some culling of the many images available, I’m ready to share some of his work with you.

Prepare yourself for wonderfully atmospheric Ukiyo-e by Kasamatsu Shiro.  His printmaking style reminds me a lot of Ivan Bilibin’s, strangely!

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Kasamatsu Shiro, Snow at Yomei Gate, 1952

Kasamatsu_Yushima Tenjin Shrine in Spring Rain-1935

Kasamatsu Shiro, Yushima Tenjin Shrine in Spring Rain, 1935

Kasamatsu_The Ginza on a Spring Night-1934

Kasamatsu Shiro, The Ginza on a Spring Night, 1934

Kasamatsu_Shiro-Ferry in Edogawa Imai-1952Kasamatsu Shiro, Ferry in Edogawa Imai, 1952

Kasamatsu_Shiro-Evening Rain, Shinobazu Pond-1938Kasamatsu Shiro, Evening Rain, Shinobazu Pond, 1938

Kasamatsu_Morning Waves-1956Kasamatsu Shiro, Morning Waves, 1956

For me, Shiro’s work transcends the muddiness and over-stylization of earlier Ukiyo-e, and becomes its own viewpoint.  I come away from these prints with fresh eyes for the real world, noticing light in different ways and sensitized to the world’s patterns.

Kasamatsu_Shinshu Hotsprings-Shubu-1948

Kasamatsu Shiro, Shinshu Hotsprings, 1948

Kasamatsu_Imai Bridge_1939

Kasamatsu Shiro, Imai Bridge, 1948

Kasamatsu_House at Ontake_1954

Kasamatsu Shiro, House at Ontake, 1954

It feels like Shiro is taking an Impressionist’s approach to color and value, with an Eastern use of line and composition. The following three prints are my new favorite pieces of Ukiyo-e.

Kasamatsu_Akirimachi, Itoigawa-1948

Kasamatsu Shiro, Akirimachi, Itoigawa, 1948

Kasamatsu_Gate at Enkaku Temple, Kamakura-1954

Kasamatsu Shiro, Akirimachi, Itoigawa, 1948

Kasamatsu_Bamboo in Summer_1954

Kasamatsu Shiro, Summer Bamboo, 1954

The Sorceress Left Too Soon

Rodrigo Varo y Zajalvo worked in construction.  He had no background in art, but he placed a high value on drawing skills.

Mr. Varo brought home his blueprints for his little daughter Remedios; she dutifully copied the straight lines and tricky angles.

Encuentro 1959Remedios Varo, Encuentro, 1959The-Creation-of-Birds 1957Remedios Varo, Creacion de las Aves, 1959

Over her lifetime, Remedios Varo fled Nazis, championed anarchy, dated a poet, designed costumes for Marc Chagall’s ballet Aleko, and met artists such as Frida Kahlo, Max Ernst, and Diego Rivera.  Crazy woman.

Somehow, the existence of her work has escaped me until very recently.  And in the past few months, I’ve had to scramble the leaderboards of my favorite Surrealists.  Dali has been dethroned.  Here are the current standings, in case you were wondering:

1. Zdzisław Beksiński

2. Salvador Dali

3. Remedios Varo

4. René Magritte

the-call 1961Remedios Varo, La Llamada, 1961 Simpatia 1955Remedios Varo, Simpatia, 1955 Ruptura 1955Remedios Varo, Simpatia, 1955 Rompiendo el Circulo Vicioso_1962Remedios Varo, Rompiendo el Circulo Vicioso, 1962 personaje 1961Remedios Varo, Personaje, 1961 alchemy-or-the-useless-science-1958Remedios Varo, Ciencia Inútil o el Alquimista, 1962

Varo’s oeuvre has a haunting, harlequin feel that is missing from the bleak mindscapes of other Surrealist work.  And for the sake of storytelling, I’m fonder of Varo’s and Beksinski’s mystical characters than Dali’s naked people (see the Temptation of St. Anthony).

When she died in 1963, fellow Surrealist and close friend André Breton said:

The Sorceress left too soon.

Dreams From the Far East

Exploring visual art from the Far East (by which I mean China and Japan), is a voyage into strange waters for the Western viewer.  It can be uncomfortable for the timid, and unnerving for the narrow-minded, but it is eye-opening to everyone. There’s a graphic vocabulary completely different from our own, a different way of using color, a different approach to composition.

Below is a contemporary landscape using a traditional approach, by Chinese artist Song Wenzhi.

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Song Wenzhi, New Aspects of Lake Tai, 1973

Western composition is a monarchy: this element here is the King, and it’s the first thing you should look at because it’s the biggest and catches the most light.  Important things in the foreground, less vital things in the midground, and so on.  There’s a clear order.

Eastern composition is a garden: we put a rock here, but not such a huge rock that it dominates the landscape.  Here’s a tree.  Here’s a slightly smaller rock, and we add elements until it feels balanced.

Jiangsu 1975

Song Wenzhi, Jiangsu, 1975

Western art could learn a thing or two… or maybe it’s just another way of doing things.  It seems to me that whereas the West became bogged down in perspective and chiaroscuro, the East developed a keen sensitivity to the weight and quality of line.  “Copying Reality” isn’t an issue in Eastern Art.

The Far East also has better monsters.

Earth Spider by Yoshitoshi Taiso (1839-1892)_900Yoshitoshi Taiso, (date unknown)

yoshitoshi01bYoshitoshi Taiso, (date unknown)tumblr_lq2jvtRQ8o1qmxhb4o1_r1_500Yoshitoshi Taiso, (date unknown)

Take a look at Yoshitoshi Taiso’s illustrations for 36 Ghosts right now, and tell me what you think!  Does the West have anything that can compare to the raw energy and terror in Taiso’s work?

Cartoon Modern and Eyvind Earle

There are two principal directions in visual art: Realism and Abstraction.

Actually, they’re not “directions” as much as “flavors”.  You can mix flavors; you can’t mix directions.  Or maybe it’s a spectrum.  I really don’t know.

Cartoon Modern was a style which came into being in the 1950’s; a child of the Swiss-inspired push for minimal design and the art world’s general shift towards Abstraction.

The characters that emerged from this style are loose and gestural, constructed of a few clean lines and vivid colors.  Saul Bass was a champion of Cartoon Modern (see the opening titles for It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World), but that’s a whole ‘nother post.  Maurice Noble’s backgrounds for Looney Tunes and many of the characters in earlier Rankin Bass films are also great examples of Cartoon Modern (see Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Mad Monster Party, etc.)

All of that rabbit-trailing aside, I think the best thing about Cartoon Modern is not the characters, but the use of color.  Suddenly, animators decided it was ok to give characters purple skin and paint trees red.  There was freedom.  And nobody used that freedom like Eyvind Earle.

three-horses-1987

Eyvind Earle, Three Horses, 1987

Earle was a concept artist for Disney in the 50’s.  One of his early projects with the studio was Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom (1953), on which he did the backgrounds.

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Disney Studios, Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom, 1953

He supervised the backgrounds on many golden-era Disney films, and is best known for his art direction on Sleeping Beauty (1959).

Sleeping Beauty c. 1959

EyvindEarleSleepingBeauty_c. 1959

EyvindEarleSleepingBeauty_ c. 1959

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Eyvind Earle, Concept Work for Sleeping Beauty, 1959

Ending his career at Disney, Earle turned to painting and screen-printing; his work from the 60’s onward was dominated by fantastic landscapes.

winter-1981Eyvind Earle, Winter, 1981

big sur and branch_1974Eyvind Earle, Big Sur and Branch, 1974

Three-Horses-Grazing_oilEyvind Earle, Three Horses Grazing, (date unknown)

Earle had a knack for blending the picky details of Realism with the geometric grace and vivid color of Abstraction.  The results are stunning- maybe Abstraction and Realism are two sides of the same coin?  When they come together… is that where Beauty comes from?

the_wave_1990Eyvind Earle, The Wave, 1990

black oak_1982

Eyvind Earle, Black Oak, 1982

santacruzmountains_1999Eyvind Earle, Santa Cruz Mountains, 1999

Another Pantheon

AJ Fosik does brilliant things with paint and wood.

My first reaction to his work was:

“Hey, these look like idols from some kind of belief system!”

Which, if we’re to go by the review on his website, is his goal: to dethrone belief in gods or God by creating his own personal iconography.  Fascinating, as Spock would put it.

Beautiful stuff, too!  His craft is flawless.

 

Creature with the Atom Brain 2009AJ Fosik, Creature with the Atom Brain, 2009

Transpanthanation 2010

AJ Fosik, Transpanthanation, 2010

The Shepherd Inevitably Consumes the Flock 2011

AJ Fosik, The Shepherd Inevitably Consumes the Flock, 2011

In the Teeth of Stupefying Odds 2010

AJ Fosik, In the Teeth of Stupefying Odds, 2010