Thursday, November 13, 2008


Robert M. Greenberg
Through his collections we can ask ourselves what it means to be an artist, what counts, what doesn't count? Do many people have to know your name or your formal training?
"We shouldn't travel in ignorance just because the world may be unfamiliar or extreme" - Robert M. Greenberg

All the individual pieces of the collections come from a person. Someone who thought, saw, felt, moved in order to accomplish what we see today as a single piece in Robert Greenberg's collection. With this being known "we are obliged to understand, as far as we can, the terms of expression of each work." - Robert M. Greenberg

Henry Darger
Without knowing a lot about Darger, without knowing anything really, one begins to wonder what he thought of children and whether or not he was into them or not. It sounds horrible, I know, but looking at pieces by Darger are examples of what I mean. Such as "During height of storm escape be setting it on fire" It depicts children being strangled as well as the piece "At Calmanrina" which depicts children being strangled and tortured as well.

Those were the first opinions and impressions I had about Henry Darger before actually knowing uch about him through research. These pieces with the children in them are from a series. Darger wrote a 5000 page story about a war between those children and a corrupt, evil regime bent on destroying and enslaving them.

Not just the pieces of art which went along with the story but the story itself is very long and shows me an example of what I have been doing in the surrealism class. It is called "The imperialistic fury of precision." It entails a lot of close proximity drawing and making with a lot of details and the fury of needing to make or draw something complex and detailed. A lot of people talk about "going into the zone" when they are working on a piece, whether it be large or small. "The zone", in part, is what it is to be doing the imperialistic fury of precision. Although, the piece being worked on at the time may be complex or detailed, it is "the zone" which makes this way of working more bearable. That is my experience but I am sure that Darger's story was done during periods of time when he was in this trance-like state, writing for hours on end. The story being written about a massive war reflected turmoil during the time but at the same time was fuel for the story he was writing and the pieces that he generated. I still wonder, though, if there was something about children that drove the story and the accompanying visual work.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Fantastical Fables as told through illustrations by Amy Cutler speak as to how illustration is a social medium used to convey messages from the artist to the viewer. The medium itself is the means of expressing those ideas in a way that people might understand or in some circumstances might not understand what is being presented to them. Although for some viewers Amy Cutler's illustrations might not reveal their meanings right away, the first thing someone notices when they stand up close and look carefully is the attention to detail. The way in which firgures are posed speaks to their emotions as well as the dresses or clothes that they are wearing.
The gouache on paper was very nice to see because of its versatility through detailing to background washes that set a toned mood in a piece. The detailing helps tell what the artist wanted to show, whether it be human interaction with animals or each other as was evident in some of Amy Cutler's pieces.
One of the pieces entitled "Dinner Party" was interesting to look at because of the depiction of food and dishes falling to the floor along with the table cloth which had animals that looked as though they were falling to the floor through the table cloth, as if the table cloth were a waterfall, if that makes sense. The falling and cascading motion was enhanced along with the rest of the piece because of the four figures of he ladies that were at the dinner party that had somehow gotten the chairs and silverware entangled in their hair.
Another piece that I found amusing was one titled "Hen House". In it there are small hens that can be seen inside of the upper door of the barn where they have little human heads with bonets.

Amy Cutler really seems to add a couple elements to make her pieces. One being the personal things involved in making the pieces, the memories of hard times and struggles and the second being a little sprinkling of the surreal when animal take on human characteristics and when humans take on animal characteristics like in the piece where the women are behaving like beavers. The humans and animals in the pieces seem to compliment one another and the works are reminiscent of Animal Farm.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Even now after seeing David Lynch's Eraserhead I cannot seem to get some of the images out of my mind. I feel a need to cleanse myself and see something relaxing and recognizable after witnessing what I would describe as a disgusting, disturbing, uncomfortable display of meanings and commentaries that come together to make the polluted, sickening presentation of filth that we witnessed. If to make people feel uneasy and uncomfortable was the purpose for David to make films such as these then he did a great job.
Even from the very beginning of the film things are not right, at least, not the way most people view them to be. The beginning composition with the character "Henry" being horizontal and zooming in and out as well as being panned up and down vertically was a sign of the off-balance things to come in the rest of the film. It was all very slow, slow movement with a droning, wind and atmospheric background noise throughout the entire film with the exception of a few strange songs with actual lyrics being repeated over and over again in them.
There was a feeling of disease and an organic, biological mix with the mechanical industrious deadness of nothingness.
The concept of fading in and out and closing in used through the darkness and the light mingled with size relationships was alien. It all felt unfamiliar and uncomfortable. The desolate and barren scapes mixed with industrial deterioration and ruin brought about a sense of being lost and in despair with no hope of ever escaping a monotonous nightmare of the unfamiliar and uneasy.
The Human interactions and displays of emotions were hard to watch because of a dark underlying sense of un-reality, what made sense and what did not make sense.
Some words that came to mind when watching were
breaking point
There was a very dark undercurrent and I could definatley apply consumption, excess, sacrifice to the wasted food at the dinner scene, the killing of the creature. At one point I thought of the "Tell Tale Heart" when "henry" is laying down and the creature is making sounds that seem like laughter right before he kills it with the scissors.
Does a person have to be in a certain state of mind to watch something like this or especially make something like this? It was hard to watch and I wish I had not watched it but I see the value in looking at all sides of something, whether it be a piece such as this film or a movement like surrealism.
Going against the flow and the norm seems to be a main canal for the surrealist movement. The slap in the face to "high art" and artists from the Renaissance. Embracing the unconscious world of a neither reality where anything good or bad or strange is possible and does not seem out of the ordinary because the ordinary does not exist.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Library Research

Siqueiros - An artist that I had never heard of which blew me away when I realized the size and scale of the works of art. They were huge murals with vibrant, vivid colors and powerful images of oppression and death. These sometimes thousand sq. ft. murals scream struggle and triumph.

Egyptian Drawings - I've had to do projects and presentations about Egyptian art since I was a small child and I never really came across anything that was out of the ordinary of the Egyptian style paintings and drawings that we have all seen many times. However simple they may look, they are anything but. All of the simple images combine together to make up a complex story involving many parts (elements) and themes. The most unique thing I came across during the research time in the library was a drawing of an Egyptian pharaoh titled "Head of a king wearing the blue crown". I have never seen an Egyptian shown with stubble.

William Gropper - His use of stylized characters of all shapes and sizes make up serious and sometimes humorous situations from real life. The expressions are reminiscent of Norman Rockwell's paintings. Norman Rockwell on the otherhand had very realistic, mostly humorous paintings of everyday situations with the exception of some more seriously themed commentaries on racial tensions during the time.

James Montgomery Flagg - I learned many things I had never known about Montgomery Flagg. Although he was married for over 20 years he fancied the glamorous glitzy stars of Hollywood and he often had many affairs. He thought of his wife as more of a mother figure to him while they were married. His work reminds me of Norman Rockwell, except his portraits are a little less realistic but the nudes he painted were excellent. Flagg's wartime propaganda enlisting posters have the similar ring of today's television commercials for enlisting in the service. Flagg's famous Uncle Sam "I want you" is actually a self portrait, he gave himself the beard go-tee and longer hair.

The Codex Borgia - A very complex, pictographic language that is still undiciferred (untranslated) It is very mysterious like the American Indian art that has been interpereted.

Monday, October 13, 2008

More on Comics

These are some things that I learned from the critique with the visiting artist about the comic assignment that we did where we had to have made up a word and have a hero and animal character.
A good idea is to start right off with action, especially if it is a shorter comic and you want to grab the attention of the viewer. This is not always the case however, when there is a lot of action it can become jumbled and you do not want to lose the interest of those who are reading and looking at the comic. Starting slowly and then building up to action can be just as effective as massive explosions in the first panel. With that said, it is important to remember that you do not want to ruin the pace with a lack of clarity. Sometimes it can help you if you maybe change the layouts and thicknesses of outlines around the panels and leave some empty space as well.
Xeroxing work is a wonderful way to experiment with color and layouts. You can cut things up and place them anywhere and then make a xerox of the layout you just made. It is really all about finding what works the best for you, what you are most comfortable with. I am not saying "stay in the comfort zone" though. Perhaps try to reach outside of a comfortable boundary by experimenting with different colors and mediums and techniques that you research or come up with by yourself.
When thinking comics it is an important note to keep in mind the balancing of picture and word balloons. It is the combination of style and story and what you are really trying to say. This can incorporate even something as simple as where you use line and where you do not use line in a panels or page layout. A limited palette could help balance forground and background or even distinguish the nature of the characters used, good, evil, neutral etc...
One interesting thought I received from the visiting artist is that not everything in your own comic has to be absolutely inked. Sometimes a pencil can do what inking just cannot accomplish, sometimes inking might ruin the effect that the pencil has given you. Another thing to keep in mind is that too much information can bog the viewer down and make something boring to read or overwhelming to look at. Another way of dealing with this is to not feel confined to having everything stuck in a box or panel at the same time that you need not feel redundant in showing the same backgrounds in every panel.

Things to watch out for would be:
No contrast from one panel to the next
making it look too dense, no varying line weights
Making everything with words be conversational and ranting
having words take over the panels, unless that is your intent
etc... etc... etc...

There are as many diverse comics as there are diverse people and I am not saying at all the some are better then others because that all depends of the side or view that you have on them. They may have been done in similar styles but they are each different in their own ways. Everyone is a critic and it is all opinion.

Monday, October 6, 2008


At just a glance I was unsure and felt disinterested in reading Persepolis because I had made an assumption before I ever lifted the book. I learned that making that assumption would have hurt me in the long run for not having read the book. It's the classic "don't judge a book by it's cover" saying that really applied to me in this situation.
I had just assumed by looking at the outside of the book that it was about the second world war holocaust and the Jewish struggle against all odds. I had mentioned in the class discussion that it gave me an Anne Frank feeling. Upon picking it up I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it was the author's personal story about something which I had no knowledge of.
I was very surprised when I opened it to see the simplicity of the drawings and narrative. Right from the beginning it was very easy to follow and it seems like anyone would be able to pick up this book and follow along and understand what is going on. The fact that it is in black and white helps with the simplicity of understanding because the content itself revolves in circles about contrasting meanings and sides. Those who are oppressed and those who oppress, those who are traditional and those who lose tradition because of the influence of another culture; At the same time it deals with hypocritical situations on the part of both sides.
The style alone, however simplistic, says so much to anyone even just looking at the pictures. You can see and feel the emotions that Marjane Satrapi was trying to get across because of the facial expressions and body language used in every situation. Along with this is the use of reversing the black and white whether it be to show night time or day time or features of a character such as eyes that are closed or tears that are flowing.
I am sure that it must have been an ordeal not only to live through all of these situations one time but to have to go back and re-live these things over again in order to present this memoir to the world. Although the style is simple it makes the ideas being put across seem vivid even without the use of any color whatsoever. She presented to us something that actually happened in a way that makes it easy to understand for those who have never been in any situations like what she went through. What she made was only a piece of what was happening and it leaves room for the viewer to use their imagination to add colors or think outside of the small panels used. During an indoor panel with people speaking to one another it might peak the curiosity of the viewer to imagine what was happening outside of the house or down the block or even on the other side of town for that matter.
It was great to read about an experience at that scale through a simple way of showing the events and how they unfolded. Everyone being human can at least relate to certain parts of her tale and take out of it what they will, for better or for worse. Hopefully a work like this will inspire other people to take it upon themselves to either make a physical, graphic narrative like this or if not then just think about their own personal memoirs, just get people thinking and reflecting. It is a great way to find inspiration but at the same time to just maybe learn more about yourself as a human being and ask yourself questions as to why things happened and what you can take out of those events. It is also an eye opener as to the views that people of other backgrounds and cultures have about their own countries and maybe yours as well. If you know people from other countries then ask them, ask them about anything. You might learn a lot that you otherwise would not know just watching the news about situations in other places. Try to learn someone else's view point and put yourself in their shoes.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Stolen work

Have you ever had your work stolen from you?, ideas or physical work? I have had that happen both here at MECA and another school as well. I sat there watching someone do a presentation of my exact idea that I had discussed with them earlier on. It makes me so angry that I cannot look at that person or even think about them so I won't.
I do not share ideas with other people because of things like this. I am not going to be posting images of things that I have done or ideas for anything that I want to do because I had many paintings and pieces that I had done for a show stolen. I'm going to stop there because I just can't think about it but let me just say this last piece of advice. DO NOT EVER SHARE YOUR IDEAS WITH ANYONE THAT IS NOT A TRUSTED PERSON TO YOU AND NEVER EVER LET YOUR WORK OUT OF YOUR SIGHT!!!