Monday, December 15, 2008

Drawing on Drugs

The following is a gallery of drawings (and stories) created under the influence of something other than direct creative impulse. Initiated by an early reading of The Doors of Perception, Aldous Huxley’s book-length essay on his experiences with drug-enhanced creativity, I’ve always taken note of such encounters with the overtly-stimulated mind, episodes of ultra-consciousness that seem to compress both time and space, to varying degree, offering the faculties of my brain an ageless retreat, moments out of step with their place in history, realities where clouds race across the sky and clock hands are stuck eternally between the seconds.

Hash (Hashish), early winter, 1996

This sketchbook page of obsessively compulsive, many-eyed mousetrap physiologies was crafted while occupying the visitor’s couch in the mixing room of Stu Hallerman’s Avast! Recording Studios, an appearance that had me monitoring the creation of the initial batch of singles from Seattle’s cartoon-powered kings of “pussy rock”,
The Action Suits, the star vehicle for Peter “Hate” Bagge, Eric “Slime” Reynolds, and Andy “Salad” Schmidt, now members of Can You Imagine?, Fox Hollow, and Hank Adams, respectively. Its serpentine, perpetually-budding trajectory is simply a charged amplification of my normal Byzantine thought patterns.

Magic Mushrooms (Psilocybian), summer, 1995

This madly-animated series of scrawls was the result of a leap into “Wonderland” with a few good friends, a house-bound adventure that began with me caressing an old Aretha Franklin LP on the porch and ended with me hopelessly lost in a downward spiral of paranoia. Between those extremes, I found myself in the basement, sitting before a tape recorder, explaining the metaphysical mysteries of the present tense, while frantically scribbling these fiendishly-eyed faces, creations that appeared to be winking and leering back at me as I drew them.

Acid (Lysergic acid diethylamide), winter, 1982

This ludicrously carnal doodle was applied to the margin of an art school notebook, more a reflection of my sheer boredom with the lecture on art history than a result of my first taste of the notorious psychedelic. Nevertheless, I must credit that Mickey Mouse blotter with what is certainly one of the very best things I will ever draw, even if the rest of the experience is a complete blank, ending how and where I can never remember, a situation I’m quite sure the Die Brucke impressionists would readily relate to.

Pot (Cannibas sativa), spring, 1977

This sophomoric and judiciously overwrought piece of fantasy writing, along with its primal-colored pencil illustration, were both a page of an issue of Firefox, the world’s weirdest hero, one of my many teenage creations, a stable of derivative characters that peopled the DJ Comics Group. It was fashioned at the tail end of my very first introduction to the universally-popular recreational and medicinal psychoactive, a baptismal journey that began on the waterbed of a custom van owned by a real-life hippie. Between that fairly cool start, and the rather lame werewolf conclusion, the experience entailed my twelve year-old self wandering the neighborhood aimlessly, until I found myself suddenly having to empty my bowels, which I did by squatting on the green of a country club golf course. A hole in one, by any other definition.

Diet Pepsi (caffeine, aspartame), early summer, 1973

This example of endearingly violent childhood literature was created soon after my very first pizza party, an affair that offered each child present a bucket-sized container of the sugarless cola. This low-calorie charge was accompanied by the crack! and pow! theatrics of an old, black and white Captain Marvel serial, the two stimulants combining to form a work of gruesome gothic grandeur that clearly puts Edgar Allen Poe to shame, to say nothing of the accompanying illustration, which surely gives Joan Miro a run for his non-conventional money. Or perhaps it’s Cathy Guisewite.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Announcing a HALF-PRICE SALE on all of my original art at COMIC ART COLLECTIVE!

Starting this Monday, Dec. 8, through until Monday, Dec. 15, all of my original artwork currently available at Comic Art Collective is available for just one-half of the listed price. Please have a look through the great variety of styles offered, including new gouache illustrations from the Fairy Tale Factory project. Below are eleven samples of the more than a hundred and fifty pieces to choose from.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Doctored Stuffing and a Poisoned Apple

The following gallery represents a sampling of recent illustrations, a diverse assemblage of style and tone, created for a variety of clients and individuals.

Fairy Tale Icons

Here are three sample gouache illustrations, commissioned by writer Amy Morgan, for her upcoming Fairy Tale Factory teaching site. When the site is running, I will showcase more of the more than two dozen pieces I created for this clever project.

Pot Recipe Icons

Here are seven cartoon characters I created for the Portland Mercury’s recent pre-Thanksgiving section of pot-themed recipes. Enjoy, however you will!

Yesterday’s Slugger

Here is a gouache illustration created for the birthday of a good friend, one of the most avid baseball fans I know.

A Real Bombshell

Here is the pencil rough, followed by the final art, of a recent commissioned T-shirt design.

Television Times Four

Here are four recent illustrations created for Wm. Steven Humphrey’s popular I Love Television column, appearing weekly in papers like Seattle’s The Stranger and the Portland Mercury.

Monday, November 3, 2008

J.W.E. Goes to Portland

This week I find myself in Portland, Oregon. And I do so without leaving home. I achieve this apparent act of teleportation by including five illustrations in a group show entitled DOOMSDAY 2012, which opens Thursday, November 6th at Hecklewood Gallery, located at 114 NW 3rd. Hours of the opening are 7PM to 9PM. Featured in the small group of diverse contributors, who will be offering up works that echo the title's theme of civilization's end, are artists such as Jim Blanchard and Ben Tegel. The show is curated by David Heinecke of Hellominor. Below are three of the pieces I will have available for purchase. If you happen to be in the Rose City that evening, stop and by and have a look, I'm sure you won't be disappointed.

Also this week in Portland, you can see my cover to the Portland Mercury. Hitting the printer on Election Day, it will be on the streets Nov. 5th, thus necessitating a flexible reflection on the election results. Working from art director Mark Searcy's creative concept, I came up with the following gouache illustration, based upon the topsy-turvy design of a playing card. If Barack Obama wins, its to be dagger held in victory, if not, it'll be a dagger to the head, in the form of the “suicide king of hearts”. The original art is now available for purchase at Comic Art Collective.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Diversity on Demand

Along with my routine commercial illustration assignments, those that help to pay the bills, come more personal undertakings and utilizations of my art, be they gifts, or commissions, or donations to a good cause. What follows is a sampling of a few recent such works which draw upon my knack for diversity of style, as well as a handful of those aforementioned bread and butter winners.

Clementines! Clementines!

This gouache illustration on watercolor paper was a gift for my good friends Eric Reynolds and Rhea Patton, celebrating the birth of their lovely daughter, Clementine Bean, as well as being a tardy birthday gift for the father himself. It was, obviously, a work of pure pleasure and love.

Flintstone, Underdog and Frankenstein

This gouache illustration on manila drawing paper was a commission for one of my Cartoon Jumble portraits, by friend and fellow cartoonist Pat Moriarity, who requested that I combine the three characters he drew the most as a child. It too was nothing but a pleasure. It was also the very first time I’ve ever drawn Underdog. Thanks again, Pat!

The Morphing Gentleman

Though drawn back in 1997, I’ve nevertheless include this piece, a brush and ink improvisation on paper, as it has just been donated to an innovative new arts-outreach project in Seattle, The Art Lending Library, which offers a borrowing gallery of art to those who might not otherwise be able to afford or encounter the experience of owning and displaying original art in their homes. Art, in many areas of discipline, can be checked out, just like a book, and returned when due so others can enjoy it too. A truly democratic sharing of imagery, sort of a grassroots alternative to greedy image-acquiring corporations like Getty and Google. I’m always happy to help with such unique and thoughtful enterprises, if at all possible.

Kitten Gets the Mitten

This pencil sketch, inspired by Jan Pfloog’s marvelous illustrations in The Tiny, Tawny Kitten, first published by Golden Books in 1969, is to appear in an upcoming show at Chocolati CafĂ© in the Greenwood neighborhood of Seattle. Entitled Animals & Mittens, it is a benefit for the Doney Memorial Clinic, which offers cost-free veterinarian services to the pets of homeless individuals. What heartless soul could resist such an invitation to support such a helpful cause?

Humphrey Tackles the Debating Season

This feature illustration ran in Seattle’s The Stranger, and its sister paper to the south, Portland’s The Mercury. Written by William Steven Humphrey, creator of the eminently goofy, and very funny, I Love Television column (see below), it ran the week of September 25th, at the outset of the Presidential debates. I did my best to help illuminate Steve’s pithy take on the need for a more visceral approach to the arena of debating decorum.

I Love Television, Again and Again and Again and…

Here are half a dozen recent illustrations from the column my drawings have been decorating, every week, since the Fall of 1996. William Steven Humphrey’s I Love Television is, without a doubt, my favorite regular newspaper gig. Long live the Hump!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Scholarly Jumble

My recent studio show, “That Girl Eats Too Much!”, which featured nine new installments of my ongoing Cartoon Jumbles series of gouache illustrations, offered me the rare opportunity to comment directly upon my own work. For use in her daily blog, Art To Go, Regina Hackett, art critic for the Seattle Post Intelligencer, asked me to choose one of the new works and explain it in a brief caption. Sitting down to my keypad, I quickly found myself waxing effusively upon the series, wherein I take two divergent cartoon characters (Little Lotta and Galactus in the show’s title piece) and place them in a semi-abstract assemblage, based on color, form, and character mythos. Selecting an image that pairs Betty Boop with Andy Capp, one entitled “An Adult Conversation”, I attempted to offer a heady flurry of descriptive verbiage, as equally a jumble as the image it depicted. Quickly fancying myself a precocious mix of Robert Hughes and Joseph Campbell, I was soon enjoying this little diversion in artistic self-interpretation, so much so that I then proceeded to write descriptive captions for each of the nine new illustrations, in the process resurrecting an old alter ego, an eminently pompous, windy critic named Andrew Land.
Having opted to forgo using Land’s imaginary articulations in the show, I’d like to present them now, along with the works themselves, in the hope they might prove amusing.
The nine new Jumbles are currently available for purchase at Comic Art Collective.

Little Lotta & Galactus
Entitled “That Girl Eats Too Much!”, this starring piece in the show is a keen counter-dressing of two seemingly wholly disparate characters of comic book lore. Little Lotta, the over-sized, voracious eater of Harvey Comics fame, fits snuggly into the armored tunic, skirt, and headpiece of Jack Kirby’s interstellar giant, Galactus, the god-like world-eater. Here, the endlessly-hungry child is literally offered the earth and the moon, upon which she is blissfully feasting, striding the vastness of space. The obsessive appetite of each character serves as a conceptual linchpin, giving the playful tone of the Harvey milieu equal gravitas to that of Kirby’s mythic earnestness and operatic grandeur. Interestingly, Galactus feeds himself in order to literally survive an astronomically-demanding metabolism, while Lotta eats to empower herself with the massive caloric intake necessary to give herself super-strength. The starving god and the adrenalin addict, two forces destined to meet at the Dionysian dinner table. – A.L.

Fred Flintstone & Alley Oop
Here we have “Laughable Origins”, another combination in which the jumble effect has coalesced into something approximating union, but this time it is the corporal form that has more readily merged, the clothing remaining in a stubborn state of apparent disapproval. Exploring the similar, yet oppositional form of these two essentially brutish prehistoric characters, Hanna-Barbera’s Fred Flintstone and V.T. Hamlin’s Alley Oop, we find Flintstone’s three-toed foot seeming like a broken parody of Oop’s more authentically-muscled appendage. The image appears to comment upon their primitive iconography, one being the Jackie Gleason-based everyman with the large, almost over-bearing eyes, the other a more competent model of patriarchy sporting a mere pinpoint optic, made expressive only by an extensive, pencil-thin eyebrow. Their composite creation seems to be making the case for man’s binary evolution, that of the progress of his physical aptitude, along with his simultaneous mental/emotional digressions. An eminently bi-polar ancestor, if there ever was one. – A.L.

Bullwinkle & Mark Trail
Calling this piece “Animal Husbands” is clearly suggesting there is something more than a professional interest between park ranger, Mark Trail, star of the long-running newspaper strip created by Ed Dodd and Jack Elrod, and moose, Bullwinkle, star of the revered The Bullwinkle Show, created by Jay Ward and Alex Anderson. The intimate coupling pictured is both homoerotic, hands holding nuts, placed near to groin, and embryogenic, Trail appearing within the womb-like frame of arms, and the unquestionably phallic snout of Bullwinkle (to say nothing of his orgiastic countenance). The white-gloved finger of the moose, positioned for insertion before his extended nostril, is only further indication of the inherent sexual energy of the piece. It is interesting to note the tryst is taking place in the fall (the brown leaves spelling this out) and not the spring, the traditional season of such physical attraction. Am I going out on a limb to suggest the artist is none-too-subtly criticizing the alternative lifestyle, indicating it being the path to a “fall” from grace? Or is this just me over-thinking? The particulars do look quite happy, after all. – A.L.

Betty Boop & Andy Capp
Entitled "An Adult Conversation", this semi-abstract image portrays the inebriated tumult of limb and leer that is the inevitable outcome of a meeting between two iconic cartoon archetypes of yesteryear, Betty Boop and Andy Capp, the floozy and the barfly of the comics page, created by Grim Natwick and Reg Smythe, respectively. Focusing on the thinly-veiled carnality of each character, the artist seems intent on assembling the Freudian aspects of their trademark anatomies, in such a fashion as to playfully hint at these adult considerations, which have, over the years, been denuded and all but erased from their respective mythologies. Here we have Capp’s scarf, protruding erect and red from Boop’s thigh, while Boop grasps Capp’s penis-like foot, her golden necklace vaginal about her wrist, Capp’s other leg positioned for fornication, his thumb rising in approval towards Boop’s garter, as Boop herself seems to be considering Capp’s all-too-phallic, pink-tinged nose, the iconic part in her hair a invitation to further penetration. As all of this implied sexual activity proceeds, Capp’s beer sports an overflowing head, Boop’s martini a cherry, Capp’s cigarette end rising in apparent excitement, watched with interest by Boop’s satellite eye, its heavy lashes pubic in form. A Bacchanalian display of the potent libido which sits at the wellspring of most true pulp concerns, if I’ve ever seen one. – A.L.

Mr. Magoo & Daredevil
Here we have “The Club and Cane Club”, an obvious commentary upon the sightless and sight-impaired in our society. Featuring the visually myopic Mr. Magoo, the bumbling geriatric bachelor of many a popular animated short, created by the UPA Animation Studio, and Daredevil, Marvel Comics’ blind superhero, created by Stan Lee and Bill Everett , this radar-like twirl of head, hand, leg, walking stick, and chapeau is all-too-evidently concerned with the stigma of visual handicap, not just focusing on the perspective of the seeing population, but more succinctly it appears to address the internal strife within the blind community itself, the degree of one’s condition being contested and determined. Note the disembodied hand of each character, reaching out to encounter the other’s face, evoking the trope of the stereotypical blind man reading the face of a stranger as if it were Braille. At the same time we see Daredevil’s other hand, seemingly ready to support Magoo’s wandering foot, while Magoo’s floating hat looks ready to settle upon the heroes’ overtly-Satanic cowl. Is the fully blind offering the partially blind a hand, or is the near-blind attempting to conceal the sightless man’s “otherness”? Are these, perhaps, both gestures of kindness, or are they the visual depiction of an endless argument? The contradictions abound, the least of which is the unclear relationship between Magoo’s cane and Daredevil’s billy club, one there to support, the other to defend and attack. – A.L.

The Black Panther & The Pink Panther
There can be little doubt that this work, boldly entitled “The Secret Dance of America”, is primarily, and solely, concerning itself with our nation’s state of racial disharmony. The Black Panther, the super heroic prince of the fictional African nation of Wakanda, was created by Jack Kirby in 1966, the same year that saw the formation of the identically-named civil rights organization. The Pink Panther, the DePatie-Freleng Studio creation, first appeared in the title credits of the 1963 film, The Pink Panther. Both are here juxtaposed to suggest competition and submission. The eminently European Pink Panther, all sly of movement and intent, is caught in the forward march of the Black Panther, who is focused on a clawing struggle to liberate himself from the bodily barriers the Pink Panther offers up, even as the Pink Panther himself is clearly being deconstructed. There is an almost thankful, relieved look on the Pink Panther’s face, as the Black Panther’s arm separates him from the rest of his body. Can the artist be suggesting that there is a freedom to be found for both, in the ultimate liberation of The Black Panther? Or is he portraying the divisive and cutting nature of the relationship, the co-mingling of two races bound by a history of commercial abduction, displacement, murder, and slavery? – A.L

Casper & Deadman
The title of this piece, “Father Knows Best”, is evidence of a deep paternal longing, one mired in the confusing trails of generation, and its biological inheritance. Here we find the apprehensive countenance of Casper the Friendly Ghost, Harvey Comics’ curious approximation of infant mortality, as he finds himself wrapped within the shroud of Deadman, the DC Comics supernatural hero, a literal dead man who inhabits the bodies of the living to carry out his will. The nighttime scene, the lonely-looking cemetery, and the fresh dirt clinging to the hands and feet of the characters, all point to a recent resurrection, the eerily-composed specter of father and son (be they inherited or related through their proximity to death) having exhumed itself from the grave. From the nervous look on Casper’s face, we can only presume that the will of the father, the Deadman, is the force piloting this nocturnal zombie sojourn. Even in death, the son must obey, his very limbs now crudely wrapped into a bundle with those of his father, secured by Deadman’s blood-red cummerbund, the stoic letter “D” teetering above his head, its pointed serifs threatening reminders of who is in charge, the curse of biological inevitability. – A.L.

Ant-Man & Atom Ant
The title of this piece, “A Colony for the Taking”, would seem to imply some form of colonialism is taking place, though by whom, and to whom, is open to conjecture. We first notice the scattered essentials of the two protagonists of the illustrated tableau, Marvel Comics’ Ant-Man, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and Atom Ant, the entomologically-inclined super hero created by Hanna-Barbera Studios. These body parts appear like crumbs upon a picnic blanket, readily attended to by numerous black ants. That one character is able to communicate with ants, while the other is an ant himself, offers a bounty of psychological entreaties as to the nature of their relationship. Atom Ant is clearly grinning up at Ant-Man’s inverted head, his antennae are prostrate, though curled at the ends, perhaps indicating a willingness to converse, but coming with certain requirements and safeguards. Ant-Man, on the other hand, has resolutely pronged antennae, but his expression betrays a very real anticipation of need for concern. True to their respective duties and folkloric traditions, each appears ready to counter any affront, strapped into their white helmets like race car drivers, Atom Ant’s torso pointing the way towards impending action, its handless arm interestingly accompanied by Ant-Man’s much larger, complete one. – A.L.

Thor & Asterix
The mythology of mythology itself is tackled in this intriguing cornucopia of metal and primary fabric, a tight, formulated grouping of two of comicdom’s most popular ancient warriors, Marvel Comics’ The Mighty Thor, created by Jack Kirby, and Asterix, the super-empowered ancient Gaul, one of France’s most enduring comic characters, created by Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo. In this piece, amusingly entitled “An Old Grudge”, many historical implications arise, along with provincial considerations, Thor’s Norse, Germanic Pagan origin perhaps complimenting that of the pint-sized, but spirited Gaul, devoted enemy of the Romans. The visual echoes are many, further uniting the boisterous couple. Each dons a winged, metal helmet, has flowing, golden hair and dark eyebrows. Asterix’s belt is decorated with ovals, as is Thor’s tunic, each wears yellow boots, each is sleeveless and gloveless. The permeation of yellow acts as a thread of unity, a shared battle hue and cry, if you will, one that points to a singular Germanic association, if not a mirrored birthright. Hammer of lightning meets blade powered by pagan elixir, myth and alchemy colliding in a bright, frantic tapestry spun of the warring spirit. – A.L.

ANDREW LAND, born in 1956, in Cambridge, England, is a preeminent commentator upon today’s varied artistic disciplines, a critic who brings a wealth of historical and cultural knowledge to his criticism and other writings. A man known to tackle the merit of neo-Teutonic bead art and manic-depressive finger painting with equal aplomb, he is also the proud parent of an award-winning Corgi named Smooches.