Monday, December 28, 2015

In Color And In Black And White For Bog

Years ago I saw a show of paintings by Robert Rauschenberg where he attempted to make the same paintings twice. This is an amusing concept mainly because it cannot be done, unless perhaps one is a forger and is being tedious about it.  When I was asked to do these illustrations I thought about the idea with one simple change. I wouldn't try as hard as Rauschenberg did, I would make one in color and the other in black and white.

I was asked by two extremely polite young men who go by the name of Bog when they perform blue grass doom metal duets. Mr. Ian Burns on guitars and vocals and Mr. Trevor Robison on drums and vocals. I listened to their Demo while making these two paintings of identical subject matter for their cover.

Their music can be downloaded on Please do check them out. Very original ideas!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Gian Lorenzo Bernini

Sometimes in order to get myself ready to work I knock out quick little portraits that take twenty minutes or less to execute. I guess this is like a musician practicing scales or a basketball player just shooting hoops.

Here is a little picture I did of one of my favorite artists ever, Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Lessons In Beekeeping

The Hangman And His Cat

Another very large (six by eight feet) childish drawing done in crayola wax resist on fashion photography backdrop paper from the mid-eighties. I didn't realize until today that I originally had the idea of cat walking way back when. Recently I did a small illustration on the same theme. But I had completely forgotten about this one. I like this one the best. This cat hasn't been neutered.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Drugs By The Pool

In the mid-eighties I made a bunch of very large childish drawings. These were done on the type of backdrop paper used by fashion photographers. I have no idea if they still manufacture this paper, but it came in large rolls that were six feet tall, so I could roll it out on the studio floor as big as I wanted it. The studio floor created a lot of wonderful textures by chance. I used the childhood technique of crayola wax resist with black paint on top that you scratch through to draw and expose the colors. The use of a kindergarten technique in order to portray adult subject matter was amusing to me.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Mock Turtle's Song: I

Here is another nonsense poem by Lewis Carroll that was very fun to illustrate.


Friday, November 20, 2015

Mister Fancy

A quick watercolor sketch of the main character of my current graphic novel in progress. This is my first venture as an "alternative cartoonist" into the realm of the "superhero". 

My other stories typically have a female protagonist. So this is a change for me.

I realize that the alternative universe regards this genre as a moribund one at best.

I, for one, disagree.

The reasons it seems that way is that it is always explored from the same points of view. Either the arrested development power fantasy, or a post modern hipster take on it, dripping with irony.

There are surely other ways to approach it. I mean to find out.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A Punk In A Funk

Back in the original punk rock era, late 1970's to early 1980's was the first time my art work received serious attention. I was in my early twenties and attending the San Francisco Art Institute. There was a lot of bad boy art in those days and I was a part of it.

At the time my work was mostly sculpture.The materials I used were wood, plaster, paint, glass, and found objects. The majority of these pieces were assemblages presented as bas-reliefs, but sometimes they were room installations with recorded sounds.

My influences were Dada, (which historically can be looked at as the "punk movement" that occurred right after World War One), Max Ernst, Jim Nutt, and H.C. Westermann. Although my craftsmanship (inability) was far less refined than theirs.

I listened to the advice of Sam Tchakalian, a great bay area painter, and made my liabilities my strengths. The work became more and more savage and rough, and it got attention.

I worked like a whirlwind and and cranked out a large body of this stuff. I showed various pieces of this work in group shows and in one man shows at ArtSpace, The Compound, Diego Rivera Gallery, and Project Artaud.

Henry T. Hopkins, director of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art gave me an award for one of these pieces that was in an exhibition at Emmanuel Walter Gallery.
The piece was stolen from the show the next day. I never photographed it, I didn't try to find it, and I have no idea where it wound up.

Some of this work was sold to collectors. In the spirit of the times I destroyed all unsold work.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bat

Over the years I've found that if someone else isn't giving me an illustration project or assignment that it is a very good idea to give one to myself. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the first edition of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures In Wonderland. Numerous publishers, art directors, and illustrators are jumping all over it with new editions, or one might say additions of this lovely book.

Personally, I am far too intimidated by John Tenniel's original illustrations to attempt it.

That said, Lewis Carroll wrote many nonsense poems, and I do feel up to illustrating the poetry.

The combination of his wit and sadness in these poems is very appealing and beautiful to me.

                                                          Twinkle, twinkle, little bat                                                         
                                                          How I wonder what you're at!
                                                          Up above the world you fly,
                                                          Like a tea-tray in the sky.
                                                                                 Twinkle, twinkle-------                                               

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween 2015

This small watercolor is a picture of myself, my wife Susan, and our Wire Fox Terrier, Vivian.
Each of us appears as our favorite superhero, Happy Halloween to everyone, everywhere.

David and Myself, Halloween - Los Angeles 1968

This large watercolor appears in American Illustration 32. It is a portrait of myself and my best childhood friend David, trick or treating as little boys wearing costumes that we made ourselves.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

A Rejected New Yorker Cover

Every once in a while, quite rarely actually, I have an idea that could work as a New Yorker cover. So I usually make a sketch in either pencil, watercolor, or both. Then I email it to Francoise Mouly and Mina Kaneko. I sent them this idea for the issue running Halloween week 2015. By the title of this post you already know the outcome.

Oddly enough, this week they ran an article titled "Are Cats Domesticated?"

Here is the pencil sketch.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Walt Disney, Tom Jones, and Constantine the Great

Disneyland, Las Vegas, and Constantinople. During my childhood in 1960's Los Angeles, these three international destinations exerted their combined charms in a tremendous formative influence on my visual aesthetic sensibilities. Too young to realize it at the time, it is all too evident to me now. Perhaps most Americans and Europeans would be able to see the connections between the first two, but Constantinople?!

I can explain. The 1960's was a great time to be a boy in Los Angeles, there was far more freedom then, than there is now, and obviously it was far less expensive. It was a great and fun city in which to be a child was a pleasure.

Now all of our extended family lived elsewhere in the United States, or in Greece or Germany, and Disneyland at this time in history was the secular pilgrimage for families. Every Summer my parents house was turned into a free motel. Motel Zero, so to speak, for every single relative whose wife and children had wheedled, cajoled, and nagged to the point where a cross country drive to Disneyland seemed a sensible solution. To the cacophony of pleading it might have been. They all came. Uncle's, Brother's, Aunt's, Sister's, Cousin's, Second Cousin's, In-Laws, Elderly Grandparents, Disinherited Outlaw's. You name the most far distant relation you could ever dream of, and the son of a bitch was on our doorstep wearing a Mickey Mouse cap.

They would pull up in their station wagon's, weary, cantankerous, and bleary eyed, their brood either sleeping, crying, or both. The sleeping bags were then strewn throughout the house, to accommodate the children, while the adults got the guest bedroom, and sometimes if there were enough adults present, my bedroom, in which case I was removed to a sleeping bag. Why would they stay at the Disneyland Hotel, why should they, when they could stay at our house instead? Every single Summer this familial pilgrimage would piss off my Father and have him spouting and fuming, but he couldn't say no, because he was Greek.

It didn't bother me though. Not one iota. It meant that I got to go to Disneyland. Again. And again. Due to this perpetual parade of relations, I attended Disneyland like it was a finishing school. The guys wearing the rubber character suits began to recognize me. Unconsciously I absorbed the kitsch sensibilities of Walt Disney and as a child I began making drawings and dioramas because of this phenomenon. The last time I attended Disneyland was in 1972. I haven't been back and I've no desire to ever see it again. I eventually realized that it is ninety percent queuing up, and frankly, I just don't care for that sort of thing.

Which brings me to Las Vegas. All of my Grandparents lived in the Rocky Mountains. So when we went on our family vacation road trips to visit them, we always spent the first night in Las Vegas. My Father would say this was because it was a reasonable distance for the first days driving from Los Angeles. Far likelier it was due to the fact that Greeks love games of chance. They did, after all, invent cards. It is a quite short straight line from this accomplishment to five card stud poker. Please bear in mind that the Las Vegas of my childhood was still the Las Vegas of the Rat Pack. It was an amusement park for adults. While it was glamorous and flashy, the intrigue was strictly off limits to children. So there wasn't anything to do except swim in the hotel pool in the daytime and look at everything at night. And while kind of boring for a kid, the architecture was vernacular, splendid, and luminous. It made a big impression on a boy already enamored of Disneyland. The main thing being that it was completely different from Disneyland. It was its own invention and one to be reckoned with. Sadly, all of this adult wonderment was torn to the ground as Las Vegas transmogrified into a more venal version of Disneyland.

The road to family friendly was hatched in a board room and began in the 1960's with Caesars Palace. I vividly remember the first time that I spied it. A gigantic megalomaniac version of some of the Greek kitsch tourist trinkets laying around my parents house. Just like Disneyland, all of the adults working there had to play dress up in a costume like they were someone else. The card dealers metamorphosed into gladiators. Cocktail waitresses oozed from their cocoon's as scantily clad slave chicks. There was even a floating indoors ship known as Cleopatra's Barge, reminiscent of Captain Hook's vessel in Never Never Land doubling as a cocktail lounge. It was the beginning of the infantilization of everything glamorous and exotic that had made Las Vegas intriguing. Gone forever were the tuxedo's and cocktail gowns, the cocktails and the cigarettes. They were being replaced with a childish vision of Rome. A plasticine vacuform toy Rome that had tumbled out of a Carny vending machine. Hot to the touch and smelling of petrol.

The year we stayed at Caesars Palace, I got to see Tom Jones perform at the Circus Maximus Theatre. This was at the zenith of his career. He was enjoying numerous hit singles and a weekly variety television program. In other words, the man was an international jet set superstar. A few years earlier, I had been perplexed by Beatlemania and the way teenage girls, including the ones in my family were behaving themselves. This was abundantly confusing after I saw the local Los Angeles television news coverage of the Beatles concert at Dodger Stadium in 1966 when I was eight years old.

Well, let me tell you, the sights my eyes spied at the Tom Jones Caesars Palace gig surely made whatever female animal spirits the Beatles were capable of rousing and summoning to their will look like a child's erector set stood up against the Empire State Building. The Beatles merely excited girls. Tom Jones did the same exact thing to women. Women the age of ones Mother, ones Aunties, ones School Teachers were screaming and jumping about like erotic puppets. These women were thronging the stage like a single cell organism experiencing a radioactive mutation. Some of them were throwing their brassieres, panties, and their hotel room keys at the Maestro as he wailed his way through "What's New Pussycat?" The man was caught in a blizzard of chick trash and he didn't miss a beat. I sat there slackjawed with my eyes glazed over the entire time. It was a relentless spectacle and it made a lasting impression.

I decided to become an artist.

Next I veer to the ancient city of Constantinople, a distinctly entertaining metropolis, a flesh and bloody mystical place that is eternally real in comparison to Disneyland or Las Vegas, and its founder Constantine the Great. Constantine I, Emperor of Rome founded the Byzantine Empire on Monday May 11, 330, it lasted 1,123 years and 18 days, until it fell to Ottoman Turks led by Sultan Mehmet II on Tuesday May 29, 1453. If you grow up in a Greek family, this is from time to time still discussed with passion at the dinner table. There is no such place as Istanbul, it is Constantinople.

Constantine had a vision of the Cross right before the Battle of the Milvian Bridge. 
His triumph over Maxentius in this battle made him the absolute ruler of all Europe. These events  marked two decisions that changed the future of the civilized world. First was Constantine's conversion to Christianity which established it as the official religion of the Roman Empire. Secondly, he moved the capital of the Empire from Rome to Constantinople. These decisions had major lasting consequences, one of these being the establishment of Orthodox Christianity.

So I finally arrive at the third formative influence on my visual aesthetics. The art and iconography of Byzantium and the Orthodox Church. This is some of the most splendid beautiful art that has ever been made at anytime, anywhere. As a Greek child, on Sundays you attend Divine Liturgy.
The cathedral where this takes place is a magnificent ornate jewel box made of icons, mosaics, and frescoes. The artist's names are mostly unknown. Because they and their personalities, their potential celebrity, aren't the point. These things are absolutely besides the point. The point being that the art, the iconography, is a window to the Divine Presence of God.

In Los Angeles as a boy I sat in the overwhelmingly beautiful Saint Sophia Cathedral and was moved immensely by everything. I simply drank in the stunning gorgeousness of it all. The design sense, the horror vacui, the materials, and the transcendent purpose that all of it was put to. This experience made you really different from most Americans. Later on Sunday evenings, we watched Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color just like most everyone else.

So there it is, the three big childhood influences on my visual aesthetics. There are others for writing and perhaps if you stick around, I will eventually get to those. I have always loathed and avoided the idea of the "Artists Statement" as pretentious academic nonsense, and as preening oneself for grants. But I guess that at this late stage of the game I just wrote one.

I think that I may have had a far more glamorous life if I had never gone to see Tom Jones, stuck with my first childhood career choice and become a pirate.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Weasels Stole My Fruit

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